February 26, 2014 1:08:41 am
By: Meghna Yelluru
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) heard by the Bombay High Court on Tuesday accused the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) of having made amendments to the existing regulations to permit companies, particularly Red Bull, to add caffeine in energy drinks beyond prescribed limits. The PIL states that this would have been done without evaluating the risk to health of consumers.
The amended regulations would provide caffeinated beverages to contain not less than 145 mg of caffeine per litre and not more than 320 mg per litre whereas the existing regulations state that the limit is 145 mg per litre, a bench of Justices V M Kanade and G S Kulkarni was told.
Through the amendments, the authority proposes to add caffeinated beverage as an additional category under the FSSAI, the court was informed. “By the said amendment, the authority proposes to add caffeinated beverage as an additional category. The said exercise is done only to permit the companies (that sell carbonated beverages containing caffeine and more particularly Red Bull) to add more caffeine than the standards mentioned in the existing regulations,” the PIL alleges.
According to information sought by the petitioner under the RTI, Red Bull Energy Drink in 2009 had undergone seizure of various stocks as the samples analysed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that the samples contained more than 200 mg per litre, which is more than the prescribed limit. The RTI further revealed that the stock of the seized drinks were ordered to be destroyed by the Alibaug judicial magistrate.
Arguing for petitioner Yajurvedi Rao, advocate Anjali Purav urged the judges to restrain the FSSAI from permitting any company to sell beverage with more caffeine than prescribed, and from creating a new category in beverages than already provided in the FSS Act 2006.
The PIL also listed out the side effects of caffeine and termed them “serious”. “Caffeine being a stimulant, it affects all parts of the body. Blood vessels in the brain constrict heart beats more intensely and the muscles contract,” it stated.
It further said, “Caffeine contributes to weight gain and obesity. Though there maybe warning on the can of the drink ‘not more than 2’, but there is no machinery or statute available to control or regulate or supervise its consumption or sale.” The FSSAI sought time to respond to the allegations levelled by the petitioner and was granted three weeks by the court to file its reply.
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