Serve good food or face action

Serve good food or face action

The Food Safety and Standards Act to be effective from January

The Centre is all set to bring the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 which will become effective from January next year.

The rules of the Act, passed in Parliament in August 2006, are yet to be gazetted. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), in its recent meeting held in Delhi, took the decision to bring the new law into practice in the coming year. As per the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1955, the highest penalty for providing unsafe food was only Rs 1,000 and imprisonment up to six months. The law enhances the penalty amount manifold.

To enforce the law, states and union territories have been asked to appoint food safety commissioners to enforce the law. As a tentative measure, the Karnataka government has authorised the Director of Health Department to also be the food safety commissioner. Health Department commissioner Srinivasachari said the department had written to the government secretariat to appoint a separate IAS officer as food safety commissioner.

In its meeting of October 27, the Bangalore Hoteliers’ Association has appealed to all hoteliers to be cautious. “All these years the highest penalty was only Rs 1,000. Even if a hotelier was found guilty he would pay the fine. For hoteliers who invest in crores on their business a penalty Rs 1,000 was a pittance. But once the new law comes into effect, they have to pay more”, said Prabhakar, president of Hotel Customers’ Welfare Forum.

Stringent rules

Prabhakar said stringent rules were necessary for the safety of customers/patrons. He disclosed that the many hoteliers have been using synthetic, substandard food colours to attract patrons. The chemicals were potentially harmful for customers in the long run.

FSSAI in its meeting reviewed the preparation made by each state and Union Territory to enforce the law. As of now, there are four laboratories in Karnataka to test food samples. The government has also taken steps to improve the infrastructure facilities for effective enforcement of the law.

The new law considers misleading the public with false information about food items as a serious offense. “Any person who publishes or is a party to the publication of an advertisement which falsely describes any food or is likely to mislead as to the nature or substance or quality of any food, shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to Rs 10 lakh”, the Act says.

The law is very stringent when it comes to unhygienic conditions in hotels. Keeping restaurants in unhygienic conditions may attract a penalty up to Rs 5 lakh. Food safety officers will be empowered to inspect restaurant premises and enforce the provisions. However, the law also has a provision to punish the officer if he acts against any firm without reasonable grounds. The penalty in this case may go up to Rs 1 lakh. However, if the charges against the officer are not proved the complainant will have to pay a penalty of the same amount.

Offence and penalty

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