In a setback to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the Supreme Court on Wednesday junked an advisory issued by the food regulator in 2013, which mandated manufacturers to take approvals for the products already existing in the market.
A bench led by Justice J S Khehar dismissed the appeal filed by the FSSAI against an order of the Bombay High Court. The bench noted that the advisory was “arbitrary” and lacked any statutory backing to support the regulatory regime that the FSSAI sought to assert in the market.
“No ground for interference is made out. The special leave petition is accordingly dismissed,” said the bench while affirming the high court order on the issue.
The 2013 advisory required that prior product approval be taken for dietary food and health supplements already licensed and existing in the market. According to this advisory, manufacturers were required to take approval for a broad spectrum of food products including “novel foods, functional foods, food supplements, irradiated foods, genetically modified foods, foods for special dietary uses or extracts or concentrates of botanicals, herbs or of animal sources”.
The Bombay High Court order had come on petitions filed by Vital Nutraceuticals Pvt Ltd and Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA), which challenged the advisory on the ground that the FSSAI does not have power or authority to issue these advisories.
They claimed that the advisory amounted to amending regulations framed under the FSSAI Act and hence should be considered illegal and without statutory force.
In July 2014, the high court set aside the advisory and held that the FSSAI did not have the power to issue guidelines to existing manufacturers, requiring them to take approval for products that already existed in the market.
The top court order is pertinent also with regard to the ongoing controversy involving Nestle’s Maggi noodle. The FSSAI has indicted Nestle for one of its products, Maggi Oats Noodle, on the ground that it did not have the approval under the 2013 regulations, which are now junked.
Industry body Assocham has hailed this order and said, “This decision will uphold the industry’s interests especially in the small and medium scale sector.”
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