Full disclosure of vegetarian or non-vegetarian food item, human rights affected: HC

There must be full disclosure regarding a vegetarian or non-vegetarian food item as every person’s basic rights are impacted by what is offered on the platter, the Delhi High Court said on Wednesday.

The High Court has ordered the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to issue a further notice to all concerned authorities stating the requirement to clearly disclose whether the food item is vegetarian or non-vegetarian.

A bench of judges Vipin Sanghi and DK Sharma passed the order while hearing a plea for labeling ‘all items’ used by the public, including appliances and clothing, as ‘vegetarian’ or ‘non-vegetarian’. vegetarian” based on their ingredients and “items used in the manufacturing process”.

The court agreed with the argument of the applicant’s lawyer that it is unnecessary to address such a communication to the authorities and not to the general public whose fundamental rights are affected.

“We direct that the new communication/order be widely publicized in all national daily newspapers,” the bench said.

He further stated: “Since the right of every person under Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) and Article 25 (freedom of conscience and freedom of profession, practice and propagation of religion) under the Constitution is impacted by what is offered on a dish, in our view it is fundamental that full and complete disclosure regarding the vegetarian or non-vegetarian food item be part of the consumer awareness.

The bench said it is of the view that the failure on the part of authorities to ensure that full and complete disclosure of whether a packaged food item is vegetarian or non-vegetarian is also against the purpose for which the Food Safety and Standards Act was enacted. .

The court also ordered the FSSAI and the Center to file detailed counter affidavits in the case and entered the plea for further proceedings on May 21.

The board noted that pursuant to its earlier order, the FSSAI issued a communication to all relevant authorities on 22 December 2021, stating that in view of the regulations, read together with the FSS (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2020 , each package of “non-vegetarian” food containing ingredients, including additives, of animal origin, but excluding milk or milk products, honey or beeswax or wax carnauba or shellac, must bear a symbol and a color code indicating that the product is non-vegetarian.

It is clarified that the declaration of non-vegetarian or vegetarian foods is mandatory regardless of the percentage of any ingredient in the food, the communication said.

Lawyer Rajat Aneja, representing petitioner Ram Gaua Raksha Dal – a cow welfare trust, argued that the December 22, 2021 communication still leaves a lot of ambiguity and does not clearly require farmers food business disclose whether the food is plant or non-vegetable on the basis that even if its use is miniscule, it would render the item non-vegetable.

The high court had previously said that using non-vegetarian ingredients and labeling them vegetarian would offend the religious and cultural feelings of strict vegetarians and interfere with their right to freely profess their religion.

The court had observed that everyone has the right to know what he is consuming and that nothing can be offered to him on a platter by resorting to deception and camouflage.

He had directed the Centre, represented by permanent counsel Ajay Digpaul, and the FSSAI to ensure that there is full and complete disclosure of all ingredients that go into the manufacture of any food item, not only by their code names but also indicating whether they are of vegetable or animal origin or whether they are manufactured in the laboratory, whatever their percentage in the food.

The court was told of an ingredient, which is a food additive and is often found in instant noodles, potato chips and a variety of other snacks and is commercially coded, which is commercially prepared from meat or fish.

The requesting organization claimed that there are certain “non-vegetarian” products that are unknowingly used or consumed by those who profess vegetarianism due to lack of proper disclosures.

The petitioner stated that there are several items and products that are used in “everyday life” without those who profess vegetarianism realizing that they are either derived from animals or processed using animal products. animal origin.

He said that “apart from various edibles and cosmetic products which clearly include animal products as active ingredients, there are also various cosmetic products as well as food products, which however do not contain any animal products in the list. of their ingredients, and are therefore labeled as vegetarian, but are made from animal products.”

“The main effort of the petitioner is … not only (for) the strict application of existing rules and policies of labeling products as green, red and brown, depending on the nature of the ingredients of a particular product, but also to direct the relevant authorities to make mandatory for manufacturers of food products, cosmetics, perfumes; household appliances such as tableware, clothing items (clothes, belts, shoes, etc.); accessories (necklaces, wallets, etc.) and label all of these products the same,” it said.

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