In a special drive, the lower courts of the state will in February take up as many as 5,265 pending cases pertaining to sub-standard food, adulteration and false food labelling, to dispose of backlog. The cases have been filed by food safety officers under The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, before it was replaced in 2006 by the Food Safety and Standards Act. Several cases date back 20 years or more, officials of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.
“Some cases are older than 20 years but because of delay in hearings, these are not getting disposed of. We approached the Bombay High Court to clear the backlog,” said Pallavi Darade, the FDA Commissioner. Maharashtra is the third state in the country to conduct such a drive to clear cases under the now non-existent Prevention of Adulteration Act after Gujarat and Kerala.
The cases, officials said, may attract a fine of Rs 2 to Rs 10 lakh from offenders with most related to adulteration of food products or pertaining to raids conducted by food safety officers.
Following the FDA’s request, the High Court had issued a notification to sessions, metropolitan, and magistrates’ court across Maharashtra to take up all cases related to the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. The Maharashtra FDA has also started a state-wide drive to register food business units, ranging from street food stall hawkers to caterers or home-based dabba services. “Any one with a turnover of beyond Rs 12 lakh per month has to get a licence from the FDA,” said S Salunkhe, the Joint Commissioner, FDA.
Currently, the state has nine lakh food business units registered with it with 2 lakh licence holders who have a turnover above Rs 12 lakhs each. In case of street hawkers or fruit vendors, the FDA officers are conducting a special drive to reach out and register them.
In the past one week, the FDA has collected 742 milk samples from various dairy outlets to test them for dulteration. The drive was ordered after a series of complaints regarding milk adulteration reached the FDA commissioner. “Laboratory results are awaited. Our officers also inspected 127 vehicles near highways and toll nakas that transport milk,” commissioner Darade said.