The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a notice to two top online e-commerce portals after its food inspectors were able to place an order and get deliveries of flavoured and scented tobacco from the shopping apps.
Scented and flavoured tobacco is banned for sale, manufacture and distribution in Maharashtra since 2012. Between December 17 and 28, FDA food inspectors placed multiple orders of tobacco products on Flipkart and Amazon, and the deliveries were made between December 20 and 29. Officials said they purchased eight suparis and various scented tobacco from six brands on the online portals. Once deliveries were made, the FDA sent notices to the online shopping app.
“We are going to take legal action against the two,” FDA Commissioner Abhimanyu Kale told The Indian Express.
In November last year, Kale had set up a special branch at the headquarters to investigate against misleading advertisements on online portals. “During the pandemic, sale from e-commerce companies has increased,” said Shashikant Kekare, joint commissioner (food) FDA. During investigation, officials stumbled upon sale of banned tobacco products.
They placed order for Rajnigandha Pan-masala, Bablu Gold Scented supari, Happy Life Pan-masala, Ashoka Masala supari, Kesari Tukda, Being Narwari Scented supari, Rasily Scented supari, and Fresho Kartz Sweet flavoured supari. Kekare said they issued notices last week but they are yet to hear from either of the e-commerce portals.
“We conduct regular crackdown on street vendors for selling tobacco. But recently, online sales have picked up due to lockdown. Only raw tobacco sale in permitted in the state limits but not flavoured or scented ones,” Kekare said.
Officials said criminal proceedings will be initiated under Section 59 of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 against not just Amazon and Flipkart but also the vendors listed on their website. Section 59 provides for imprisonment for six years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.
A query was sent to Flipkart and Amazon, both had not responded at the time of going to press.
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