Mumbai : In the last three years, the Maharashtra food and drugs department (FDA) has filed 5,768 cases of food samples found non –conforming and convicted only 1,168, as per the data released by FDA.
According to FDA officials, the food safety officers draw in food samples and send them to laboratories recognised by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for analysis. In cases where samples are found to be non-conforming to the provisions of the FDA Act, recourse is taken to penal provisions under the FSS Act.
In 2018-19, FDA analysed 4,742 samples for quality and standard purpose. Out of which 1,036 samples found non-conforming. FDA had filed 857 criminal cases and 910 civil cases of which only 18 cases convicted and 529 cases penalties were recovered . In 2019-20 FDA analysed 5,962 samples and 1,030 were non-conforming. FDA filed 1,150 civil cases of which 666 were convicted. However, FDA filed 1,045 criminal cases in which only 135 convicted. In 2020-21, FDA analysed 4,733 samples and 874 were non-conforming. FDA filed 911 civil cases of which 269 were convicted. FDA also filed 795 criminal cases of which 80 were convicted.
FDA chief, Parimal Singh stated that we file a case when the samples are unsafe and then judicial proceedings take over. “We are ensuring that unsafe and substandard food is identified. We have also signed an MoU with the government to strengthen our laboratories with advanced technology. We have also improved our vigilance,” he said.
Singh further said, “In order to improve conviction rate we have decided to hire law officers across Maharashtra.”
A senior FDA official, requesting anonymity said, “Majority cases are pending, hence the conviction rate is low. To reduce pendency government has segregated criminal and civil cases. All labelling, misbranding, substandard food cases are filed under civil category. However, all unsafe food related cases are coming under criminal cases.In many criminal cases, advocate challenged lab report, sample, sampling method, testing. Hence there is a delay.”
In civil cases there is a penalty of ₹1-5 lakh depending upon the profit earned by the accused by contravention. However, in criminal cases, accused can be fined for ₹1-5 lakh with imprisonment from six months to 14 years.