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Food adulteration & Laws made to prevent it

This Article is written by Yukta Palve


With the increase in population the demand for food is also increasing day by day. The rising inflation is making it costlier to provide standard quality food. This has increased the cases of food adulteration to cut down cost and gain profit. Have you seen the increase of such incidents lately? As a consumer, does your choices of brands and shops to get good quality food seem like decreasing? 

Be it packaged food, food from Restaurants, food found in markets, everywhere there is some form of adulteration or modification done to the food that is being sold. At every stage, starting from the farms till your plate. There is some kind of adulteration or degradation of quality to save costs.

In this article we will see various types of adulterations and some important laws governing the food standard in our country.

So, what is adulteration? (Remember adulteration and adultery are not the same things, kindly use the words with caution 😉)

When any kind of food is mixed with poor quality, harmful, inferior even noxious or unnecessary element is called adulteration. It is basically mixing of another ingredient with the pure form of food or drinks. It may or may not have a harmful effect on the health of a person but it is still considered as an offence. Under section 272 of the Indian Penal Code, it is a punishable offence to adulterate any food or drink and making it noxious knowing that it is intended to sell or will be sold.

What are the types of adulterations?

(Remember, not every adulteration is punishable as per law. For example, Under IPC section 272, which I mentioned earlier, only mixing of ingredients which are harmful to the public health is considered as an offense, so mixing of milk and water is not an offence under IPC as it does not harm the public health.)

  • Intentional Adulteration- when similar-looking substances or ingredients are added to the pure form to increase the overall weight and gain more profit it is called as intentional adulteration.

  • Incidental Adulteration – Anything which gets formed or added or develops in the food or drinks due to negligence and not intentionally is called incidental adulteration.

  • Metallic Adulteration – Using metallic elements like lead or mercury in food by intention or by negligence is known as metallic adulteration

  • Packaging Adulteration – When the packaging material is of such a nature that gets mixed or interferes with food inside it, it is called as packaging adulteration.

What are different ways of adulterating?

  • Mixing– Mixing ingredients like sand, mud, clay, dust, pebbles with food article.

  • Substituting– Pure and healthy constituents are replaced by cheaper and low-quality ones, which reduce the nutritional value and quality of the food and may even cause health hazard.

  • Using Decomposed Food– In this method, decomposed food is mixed with healthy ones. Food that even conceals damage or inferiority of any manner is also considered to be adulterated. Also, the deliberate mixing of healthy food with questionable quality food leads to the final product being adulterated.

  • Additions of Toxic Substances- Food adulteration also involves the mixing of food with toxic substances to gain higher profit and increase sales. Example- Addition of color, dyes, or harmful unpermitted preservatives.

  • Misbranding- Altering the manufacturing dates, expiry dates, list of ingredients or misleading ingredient derivatives, and so on.

  • Artificial Ripening- Adding of chemicals to vegetables and fruits, even during the time they are still growing stage, which speeds up the process of ripening in them, is also considered as food adulteration. Example- Mango is ripened with carbide.

What are the laws in place to prevent food adulteration?

There were many pre-constitutional and post-constitutional laws protecting the consumer’s interests in terms of food, however due to multiple standards and specifications provided by different acts , administered by different departments led to the problem in implementation which resulted in lack of importance given to food safety standards. The food industry was also facing a problem as different products were governed by different acts. So, with aim to consolidate all previous existing laws the parliament enacted The Food Safety And Standards Act, 2006 which is meant to be a single point reference for all food safety and standards related matters.

The FSS Act monitors and regulates food safety , food handling and manufacturing in our country. It led the formation of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India which is a body corporate that sets quality standards for food articles and procedures for safe handling. This authority sets science based standards for all types of foods.

The FSSAI, issues a license to all food products which is a 14 digit number along with the FSSAI logo printed on the product. It is a symbol or rather a certification that the product is safe and upto to the standard quality. So you should always check for the FSSAI mark on the packaging before buying. Usually almost all products have this logo and number at the back of the packaging.

General Principles laid down by the act: –

  • Undertake to achieve protection of human life and health, protect the interests of the customers by ensuring fair practices in all kinds of food busineses.

  • Use risk assessment results to perform Risk management which will help the authorities in regulating.

  • In case there is scientific uncertainty but as per the assessment information there is a possibility of  ill effects to public health, provisional risk management measures should be enforced.

  • In case it is found that certain food may is risky for human health on reasonable grounds, depending on the nature and level of risk , the authority should take appropriate steps to inform the public about the risk involved in consuming a certain food product and steps taken to prevent or eliminate that risk.

  • When a food that belongs to or is a part of a whole batch, lot or consignment of food and is failed to comply to requirements of food safety, it shall be assumed that the whole batch, lot or consignment fails the safety standards.

Provisions relating to food articles under FSS Act-

  • No article of food shall be mixed with food addictive contents or processing aids unless it is in accordance with the provisions of this act

  • Food articles should not contain contaminants or naturally occurring substances which are toxic or heavy metals in such excess quantity which is not as per the regulations.

  • Food articles should not contain insecticides or pesticides residues, veterinary drugs residues, antibiotic residues, solvent residues, pharmacologically active substances and microbiological counts excess of the tolerance limit of what is specified under the regulations.

  • Person should not manufacture, sell or distribute any food article which is genetically modified, irradiated, organic foods, foods for special dietary uses, functional foods, nutraceuticals, health supplements, proprietary foods and such other articles of food which the Central Government may notify in this behalf.

  • The food business operators should ensure that the packaging and labeling of the product, its information that is shows should not be misleading to the customers.

  • The food business operators should not manufacture, sell or distribute to any agent or broker for selling , any such products, whose packaging is not marked and labeled as per the specific regulations.

  • No food operators shall make any such advertisements that are misleading or do not comply to the provisions under this act.

  • No person shall involve in unfair trade practices to promote sales  or any deceptive practices including making false statement orally or in writing that misrepresents the standard and quality of the products.

  • The act prohibits importing of any unsafe or misbranded or sub standard or food containing extraneous matter or any article of food for which any license is required or which contravenes any provisions under this act.

  • While prohibiting or restricting import of any food article under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992  the central government should follow the standard laid down by the food authority.

Some Penalties under the FSS Act—





These were some of the penalties under the FSS act. As per the law commissions report, these provisions are more of regulatory nature and less of a deterrent or preventive. As per me this act is very much comprehensive and covers all aspects of protection of public health and consumers’ interests. It covers all the ways in which harmful food can be supplied, procedures and ways to tackle these situations. As a consumer, It is your responsibility to spread awareness and know your rights. If you choose to complain about a food product that has affected your health you can save the health of many. It is still a very new law and the implementation is not yet smooth enough to completely regulate adulteration but we as consumers can create awareness and be responsible to report such cases which will accelerate the process of achieving the objective of the act.

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