A Bombay High Court bench, which is hearing Nestle India’s plea against ban on Maggi noodles, observed on Wednesday that alcohol should be “banned first” as it is harmful and schoolchildren are nowadays consuming liquor.
“The first thing that you should ban is alcohol. Nowadays, even schoolchildren have started consuming alcohol. It is injurious to health and is a food product. Cigarette is not because it does not fall in the category of food products,” said Justices V M Kanade and B P Colabawalla after the counsel of food safety regulator — Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) — defended the ban on Maggi noodles saying it was injurious to health.
Nestle India’s senior counsel Iqbal Chagla, who concurred with the court’s view, said that no alcohol in the country has received product approval from the food safety regulator.
Defending the ban on behalf of the FSSAI, Advocate General Anil Singh said that mere suspicion about a food product being sub-standard was sufficient ground for the authorities to take action or test samples.
The court, however, said the judiciary would test whether any action taken by the government was arbitrary or justified. “We are here to test whether your action was arbitrary or justified. We can test executive action whether you (state) like it or not,” the bench told the FSSAI counsel. The court also said that it was time to put section 22 of the Food Safety Act to test.
The said section deals with all such food items that are banned unless the food regulator approves it.
Section 22 of the Act states: “Save as otherwise provided under this Act and regulations made thereunder, no person shall manufacture, distribute, sell or import any novel food, genetically modified articles of food, irradiated food, organic foods, foods for special dietary uses, functional foods, neutraceuticals, health supplements, proprietary foods and such other articles of food which the central government may notify in this behalf.”
To Nestle India’s contention that the FSSAI had conducted the initial tests on Maggi noodles in a laboratory which was non-accredited and non-notified by the authority, the advocate general said that although accreditation was necessary, a notification was not required.
He also said that Nestle India was giving an “erroneous impression” by putting a “no MSG (monosodium glutamate)” label on its products. A high content of MSG became the bone of contention over which Maggi noodles was banned on June 5.
While the arguments will continue on Thursday, the FSSAI has been told to present the 42 test reports from across the country where a high percentage of lead was not found.