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Food Safety and Standards Authority of India And the Consumer Protection Act, 1986: A Combined Evaluation and Interpretation

FSSAI Evolution
Food safety and standards authority of India is an autarchic body entrenched underneath the Ministry of Health and family welfare underneath Indian Government. underneath the food safety and standards act, 2016, FSSAI has been entrenched, It is a amalgamated decree in India in relation to food safety and regulation.

It is accountable for encouraging public health and safeguarding it through the regulation and security of food safety. FSSAI is established on August, 2011. It’s Headquarter is in New Delhi. FSSAI is leaded by the non-executive chairperson which is scheduled by the central government. The present chief executive officer FSSAI is shri Arun Singhal.

It was formed by the former union minister Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss. It conatins of 22 members and a chairperson. It is responsible for setting standards for the food so that there is a body will be able to deal with it by which there occurs no confusions in the minds of the consumers, manufacturers, traders and also the investors.

The following under statutory powers which are given to the food safety standards authority of India by the FSS act, 2016 are
  • trouping the data in relation to the food consumption occurring risk and infecting
  • appointing information and encouraging awareness in relation to the food security and nourishment in India
  • benefaction to the Department of international technical standards in relation to the food
  • also giving the scientific advice and Technical aid to the central government
  • dictating guidelines for authorization of laboratories for testing foods
  • Forming new regulations for reclining safety standards.

The main focus of FSSAI is
  • reclining science-based standards for artefacts on food.
  • conducting the manufacturing, distribution, import, storage and the sale of food.
  • To promoting the safety of the food that we engross

FSSAI has set some guidelines for the food safety research.

The research and development division accountable for the research with the following aims by
  • Also to carry out the corroboration based studies for upgrading or building rules and regulations
  • Giving rise to the new knowledge that will be able to aid in unceasingly upgrading the food safety standards which will be well suitable with international organisations.
For examining the condition aplomb. FSSAI has been injucted to present different types of functions which are in relation to the quality and standards of the food these roles in accordance to others including laying down planning steps and instructions for notification of the endrosing laboratories.

Some of the laboratories apprised by FSSAI are:
  • FSSAI Notified a credit labs -112
  • State labs -72
  • Refferal labs- 14

The products for whom FSSAI authorised the standards are the following:
  • Dairy products, fruits and vegetables, Cereals, Sweetening agents which also includes honey, Salts, condiments, spices and other related products, Beverages, Fish, Meat, Sweet.
    The evolution of standards is a changing process which is based on the latest developments in the food science, utilization pattern of food, New food products and supplementing changes in the transforming technology outstanding to change stipulations, recognition of the risk And other developments in food systematic techniques.

    After the deliberation by the food jurisdiction the specification is apprised for tempting stakeholder’s statements. Since, India is an endroser to the WTO SPS committee, the draft standards are also included in the WTO. After taking into consideration the statements received from the stakeholders, the standard is finalised and published in The Gazette of India and then implemented.

Consumer Protection Act 1986
Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was sanctioned by the parliament of India, which is operated on 24th December, 1986. This act was sanctioned to Preserve the contemplations of the consumers of India. This act was rescinded by the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. This was entrenched for the resolution of the consumers injustice and the distress identified with it. This act was proceeded in the assembly in October, 1986 and came into enforcement on December 24, 1986 Also known as the COPRA act. The Consumer Protection Act is considered as the Magna Carta in the glebe of customer preservation for screening the illegal trade implementations, examining the deficiency in the goods and deficiencies in services. It leds to the institution of universal connections of consumer forum and appellate courts in all over India. There are many consumer organisations and NGO which are instituted to extend the perception of the consumers.

The goals of the central council is to encourage and protect the rights of each and every consumer such as:
  • Rights to be preserved against the marketing of goods and services which are dangerous to life and property
  • Right to be well-informed in accordance to the quality strength clarity standard and quantity as well as the price of the goods and services because it is about the preserving of the customers against illegal trade practises.
  • Whenever there can be chances there are rights to be guaranteed and approach to a very different variety of goods and services at very compatible prices.
  • Rights to be perceived and guaranteed about the customers interest which will receive due deliberation at proper forums
  • The rights to confidential racial against illegal trade practises or the confining trade practises or utilization of the consumers.
  • The right to customer’s education.

Who is a consumer?
A consumer is one who can purchase goods for utilization and not for the re- sale of the product or for marketing commercial. The consumer also rents services for cogitation, under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 in section 21 (d).

Some of the key features in relation to the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 are:
  • This act will be applicable to all kinds of services of goods and illegal trade practises except there is a particular spare made by the central government
  • Private, public or the corporate, all types of sectors are covered under this act.
  • This act provides consumers 3 tires rectification system for providing justice to the consumer who are injured, which are at the centre, state and district levels. the three tires are:
    1. National commission:
      Section 22, 20 and 70 on the lead talks about the administration of the Commission applications of the complaint, procedure, appeal and many more by the customers. These sections particularly helps us in knowing about the National Commission that can be enforced, which consist of president and including the four members. The complaints must exceed if amount of 1 crore. If the goods were found defective after testing then they will be asked for the replacement and the compensation should be provided for the same. If any party is discontented by any order of the National Commission then within 30 days they can file an appeal to the Supreme Court also.
       
    2. State Commission:
      this Commission is formed by each state which consist of two members and one president. The complaints should be told them atleast of the amount of 20 lacs and should not exceed more than 1,00,00,000. If the goods were found defective after testing then they will be asked for the replacement and the compensation should be provided for the same. If anyone is dissatisfied with the decision of the state Commission then they can appeal in front of the National Commission within 30 day time period.
       
    3. District forum:
      This commission was set up by the state and district level which consists of one president and two members also there should be one woman member in the council and should be appointed by the state government. The complaint should not be intended in the amount which exceeded the amount of 20 lacs. Also, after the testing of the good and effective than the accused party should compensate and should appeal in the state Commission within 30 days in case anyone is dissatisfied.

This act is a kind of shelter of legislation which covers the goods and services but eliminate all the transactions which are taken by the person not coming under the extent of Section 2(1) (d). The legislative objective of this act is to provide the simple, timely and inexpensive intention of all customer complaints.

This act also gives us knowledge about the setting of consumer protection council at central, state and district levels. Which also behaves as consultative bodies for promoting and preserving the rights of the customers. Therefore, we can assume that this act aims to promote and preserve the rights of the customers are giving the safeguards against different kinds of accuses faced by the customers.

Effects on the food industries of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019:
Food Collector or aggregators are online ingress which provide access to multiple restaurants, such as Zomato, Swiggy, and others. and provide delivery of foods. Zomato which is an Indian start-up company, that uprised the food industry and introduced the concept of food collectors or aggregators to the country which is now enclosed by contestations.

The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) has conquered the extinguished crusade against Zomato whereas the restaurants are avoiding the gold programme which is commenced by Zomato. The campaign by the NRAI is a line of protest against the food collectors from the restaurants. The restaurants have been declining on majority of their profits because of the massive discounts undertaken for its gold members by Zomato.

The Zomato application provides its customers with the following kinds of services
  • Allows for easy searches of food in nearby restaurants
  • Allows different amazing discounted prices or offers for home-delivery of the food,
  • Allows its subscribers to go and consume food in the restaurant at discounted prices sometimes with the inclusion of food and alcohol.

This upraise an interesting question that if the customers of Zomato file a case against the food or service for the diminishing campaign that is launched by NRAI. Here, we have discussed the impact of the New Consumer Protection Act, 2019 not only on Zomato, but also on all the other food aggregators/distributors who are there in the food industry.

Administration under the Act
On 9th August 2019, the new Act was enacted by the Government of India. The main focus behind the new Act was to conquer the defect of the old law and to control with the technological amelioration. One of the main dynamics published in the Act is in the meaning of the word goods which is under Section 2 (20) that has been included in the word food within its administrative advocacy, which was not earlier there. The meaning of the word food has been adopted from 2006, Food Safety and Standards Act. This enhances it is importance for food business executives to be conscious rights of its customers within both the legislations and observe with its commitments.

Other considerable change which has been entrenched in the Act is the addition of the e-commerce organisation. under Section 2(16) of the Act E-Commerce is been defined as the selling or buying of different goods or services through electronic connection. Electronic Service Provider is defined in Section 2(17) of this Act to be someone who enables electronic technologies or many techniques permitting a retailer to endrose and auction of their goods or services. All the online market places and online auction sites are inclusive of this. The Act enables to cover all entities which are inclusive in the procedure of selling and buying of goods or services online. We need to note that under Section 2(7) of the Act, the meaning of the word consumer makes online network transactions. henceforth, the meaning of the word services under Section 2 (42) of the Act has been enlightened and identified the word transport as one of the services. Hence, under this act, food aggregators/distributors engaged in the supply of food. Thus, these provisions surely insinuated that food processors will come under this new Act.

Impact of this act are:
  1. Misleading Advertisement
    Misleading Advertisement is defined as to insert conditions where the seller explains their pseudo products and services, or giving a false guarantee with respect to the essence of the services or product, or camouflage important information related to preservances, or partakes in illegal trade practice. the logout campaign a very vast campaign cab be a success then different restaurants can at the same time log out of the campaign then Zomato will be held liable for advertisements misleading.

    Gold members or subscribers against Zomato can appeal in the court for misleading advertisements. Gold subscribers or members will contend that they were guaranteed the pseudo-offer for availing heavier discounts in various or multiple high-ended restaurants.

    In misleading advertisements, manufacturer will be liable to pay a penalty which may extend to Rs. 10,00,000/- including the manufacturer or service provider will not only be ordered to discontinue the advertisement, but will also serve imprisonment which may be extended for a term of 2 years. For every ensuing crime, the penalizing agreed is imprisonment for a term with the extension of 5 years and also with compensation which may extend to Rs. 50,00,000/-
     
  2. Unfair Contract or illegal agreements
    the concept of unfair contract has been introduced in Section 2(46) of the Act with the intent of protecting and preserving the rights of the customers. On one hand, It directs to an agreement between a customers and a trader or manufacturer or service provider wherein these expressions breach the interests of the customers. This compromises the circumstances in which it is mandatory for customers to pay an immoderate security down payment or for inflicting a penalty on the customers which will not be proportionate to the loss which is sustained. It also includes situations in which a party to the contract or a contract cannot laterally deminish the contract without any reasonable or valid cause.

    Hence, it is important for food distributors and food business operators to secure that their agreements do not become ‘unfair or illegal contracts’. In the following case the #logoutcampaign becomes triumphant, it is compulsory for Zomato to make sure and keep in mind that if it independently demolishes the agreement, it should be done with a reasonable cause.
     
  3. Liability of Product
    An absent concept of old law was introduced in this current act which is the concept of product liability. The word Product Liability has been explained as the culpability of the seller or manufacturer to indemnify for compensation which is un paid to customers for a harm caused by a defective good or service.

    It is a very strict section which does not provide permission for the manufacturer or the seller to please for a defence as there was absence of negligence or fraudulent intention nothing like such act. Production liability will be prescribed upon a service giver also as long as the measures brought up in the particular Act are also fulfilled.

In case, the food aggregators or distributors can be held liable within this provision if a consumer is physically or mentally has injured or harmed by food delivered by Zomato or by Swiggy or by any other aggregators of food. Let us take another speculative situation, an individual for reverent reasons they used to fast the whole day and for breaking his fast he will order his favourite dish which is vegetarian.

The food which delivered by Zomato or Swiggy or other aggregators and suddenly individual on his way with his food he realises that the thing or the piece he is eating is not panner but chicken. Then The individual calls the restaurant and asks for the rectification of their mistake, they apologise and promise to do the same. The question here is will the food aggregator be held liable, In such a case?

Recently, Zomato is responsible to pay a compensation for serving non-vegetarian food to a vegetarian on the ground of falsely in service. Similarly, in situations where consumers suffer a physical or mental harm in the form of food allergy or other hygiene problems which he has ordered online, the food aggregators or distributor will be held liable. Hence, we can say, that the legislature has intended to impose some penalties on all entities which are included in online transmittion so that protecting the consumers.

Central Consumer Protection Authority
The central consumer protection authority lay provision for the establishment of the central consumer protection authority. The vision of the authority established under act is to protect the consumers interest and rights by the regulations relating to unfair trade practises, false or misleading advertisements and to look upon the violations of consumer rights. The distinguished feature of the authority is that it can file a complaint on behalf of the consumers.

To aid to this provision , the act includes the authority as complainant so as to to allow them to act as guardian for the consumer. For the easement of the filling complaints, the act also provides for e-filling of the complaint. Moreover, the provision aids to the benefit of the society by the provision of ’Suo Moto’ to the authority , which will indeed have a great impact on food industry.

The suo moto in the provision empowers the authority to take action against any food industry or restaurants of food aggregators that cause harm to the consumers. The objective of the act is to protect the interest and rights of the consumers and this spirit has been reflected in the very provision in the act. E-commerce’s inclusion in the act has widen the scope of the applicability of the act pertaining to the global digitalisation and increase of e-market, this set had shifted the caveat emptor ,i.e. buyer beware to caveat venditor ( seller beware).

Also, the bodies in well established and coordinated manner aim to prevent the food being lost or wasted during any step in the supply chain, i.e. from its production to final household consumption. Pawan Aggarwal , Chief Executive Officer of FSSAI once said:
We all are aware of the fact that , lot of food is wasted in the supply chain. But, on the way other, during research upon the food wastage, it was found that restaurants and hotels usually have an alternative ways to use the left over food. Only during the instance of marriage parties, buffets, when the quantity of the people is less than the arrangement made for.

He lastly added:
however, with the Save Food, Share Food, Share Joy initiative, most of the food banks as like, Food Security Foundation, Feeding India, Annekshetra Foundation and others, that will be connected to hotels. When there is excess food left, it shall be collected by the food bank and be distributed to the needy.

There were major concerns by the hotels and food bank jointly , about the handling of the food after reaching to the food banks, due to lack of infrastructure to store food and related to transportation of the food. FSSAI responded that , as per the initiative , they aim to standardise and regulate the process of the food collection along with what was to be done after the collection of it.

As like, Food Safety Training and Certification , FSSAI has mandatory provision that all the licensed businesses must have at least one trained and certified food safety supervisor for every 25 food handlers in a catering premise. Hotel and restaurants officials can initiate forwardly to be trained for this role. The drafted notification for the same has been made, and was mandatorily be applicable in a year or two.

And another most important initiative is about the hygiene rating. Key aspects of the this rating includes food security supervisor training , food safety display , boards and self- compliance and also the regular audits to restaurants.

Restaurant authorities need to perform self assessment to have a hygiene rating, which by FSSAI officials would be cross verified. There is also a provision where depending upon the previous credentials the history of such assessments can be viewed. FSSAI coutiers will also give a rating stamp. Rating Above the three would be preferable and good while below two will be seen as very poor.

In my views, the rating stamp or simple rating will be able to encourage good competition among hotels and restaurants to maintain their good hygiene standards and healthy food quality which will make customers to make good decisions at the restaurants.

Organic food regulation should be protected for the interests of both consumers and farmers
FSSAI think that organic farming will go a long way in fulfilling the regulators’ primary mandate of securing food safety. A budding newly industry like organic farming needs as much facilitation and promotion as possible it is a sector that is posting impressive growth all over the world.

The US has the largest market, whereas India has the highest number of organic farmers in the country. it shows a low-external-input, with farm-level resilience and low-debt approach improved through much diverse cropping for the farmers. farmers who have committed suicide in this country due to countryside distress shows that we are yet to come across organic farmers. In the era of changing climate, organic farming’s approaches are necessary for both adaption and mitigation. organic food production.

For the consumer, especially the ones who are accompanied by traditional seed varieties, means safe, nutritious and hygienic food. These farming enterprises also take up eco-friendly food processing, while retaining the nutritional qualities of the produce.

The regulation requires organic food selling in the market to have a certification either from a third party or Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). It exempts only those producers or the producer organisations which will be able to sell directly to consumers.

It’s ironical that they do not using toxin chemicals because using toxic chemicals, producers in non-organic sector do not have to spend to guarantee compliance with food safety regulatory requirements. Also, at the farm level, farmers or the crop products these function are not applied of the country’s Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
FSSAI today does not believe that organic farming by its nature will be able to go far long way in mandating the regulators’ primary mandate of food safety and security. A newly budding industry like organic farming require as much promotion and facilitation as possible.
To ensure that fake organic items should not be sold is indeed a noble objective and prevents misbranding. But misbranding of organic food is unsafe and need to be regularly checked up by the citizens.

It is faulty to identify quality vow with certification. Certificates are now been purchased in many areas. I wonder how one will be able to examine the reports of chemical residues in validated organic food or refusal of guaranteed export transmital? It should be famed that these certifiers have an inherent dispute of interest in willingness to increase their business by certification of more farms as ‘organic’. Increment in hoax organic production of the product is a serious matter of concern which is not only for customers but also for organic farmers too. Food managers should focus on pausing really unsafe or illegal foods rather than going behind organic products.

Organic farming will need proper marketing opportunities. Bringing in onerous regulations for individual farmers instead of providing free and timebound certification to farmers is unwarranted. Most organic farmers do not have the ability to sell their products to consumers face to face. The administrative directions also put many other important questions. why is exemption provided for only small organic producers whereas all organic farmers are involved in this?

The consumer has a right to know the producer in all cases, anyhow. In addition, it’s not clear what explains a ‘small organic producers administration’. They require substitute supply chains which are mostly in the configuration of producer-to-dealer-to-customer. hence, without spared one step away from customers retail sales, sparing only straight sales, that too only for ‘small’ manufacturers is an illogical thesis.

It’s not a quarrel against management of organic farming but an endorsement for a win type situation for both organic producers as well as consumers.

References:
  • https://www.fssai.gov.in/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_Safety_and_Standards_Authority_of_India
  • https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/FSSAI
  • https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/top
  • http://ncdrc.nic.in/bare_acts/Consumer%20Protection%20Act-1986.html
  • http://chdslsa.gov.in/right_menu/act/pdf/consumer.pdf
  • https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=1b110085-d601-4539-a45c-841289650fa4
  • https://www.bcasonline.org/Referencer2015-16/Other%20Laws/consumer_protection_act_1984.htm
  • https://www.indiainfoline.com/article/news-sector-others/know-the-basics-of-consumer-protection-act-113111501015_1.html
  • https://fssaiindia.in/fssai-food-safety-license-registration-for/zomato/
  • https://www.onlinelegalindia.com/fssai/fssai-food-safety-license-registration-for-zomato/
  • https://www.fssai.gov.in/upload/media/FSSAI_News_Zomato_INC42_25_02_2019.pdf

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