When ‘veg’ is ‘non-veg’: what Delhi High Court said

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The Delhi High Court has directed the Food Safety Regulatory Authority to ensure that food business operators provide full disclosures of everything that goes into a food item – “not only by their code names but also by disclosing whether it is vegetable or animal source, or what If it is made in a laboratory, regardless of its percentage in the food item.”

Operators must comply strictly with Regulation 2.2.2 (4) of the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labeling) Regulations 2011 “on the grounds that the use of any ingredient – in any measure or percentage, obtained from animals, would make an article The food is non-vegetarian,” the court said.

“Everyone has the right to know what they are consuming, and nothing can be served to a person on a plate by resorting to deception or disguise,” the panel of judges Vipin Sangi and Jasmeet Singh said in the order passed on December 9.

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What are the labeling requirements under the 2011 regulations?

The regulations define non-vegetarian foods as containing “all or part of any animal including birds, fresh water or marine animals, eggs or products of any animal origin, excluding milk or dairy products.”

All non-vegetarian foods should be marked with a “brown full circle… [of a specified diameter] Inside a square with a brown outline having sides twice the diameter of the circle.” When eggs are the only non-vegetarian ingredient, “advertisement to that effect [may be given] In addition to the aforementioned symbol “. Vegetarian food” must be marked with a green circle filled with … inside the square with a green outline.

The regulations also require manufacturers to display a list of ingredients along with their weight or volume. Manufacturers must disclose the types of edible vegetable oils, edible vegetable fats, animal fats or oils, fish, poultry meat, cheese, etc. that were used in the product.

“Where the same ingredient is the product of two or more ingredients,” and that “combined ingredient constitutes less than five percent of the food, the list of ingredients for the compound ingredient, other than a food additive,” does not need to be declared, the regulations say.

Who went to court and why?

Ram Gaua Raksha Dal, a non-governmental organization working for the safety and welfare of cows, petitioned in October to request implementation of the current rules, and called for all products, including non-consumable items such as crockery, wearables and accessories, based on the ingredients used. For foodstuffs, the petition requested on the label not only the ingredients, but also the items used in the manufacturing process.

The trust, whose members belong to the Namdari sect, claimed that the community strongly believed in strict vegetarianism, and that their religious beliefs also prohibited, in any way, the use of goods containing animal products.

So, what is the labeling problem?

The court said that the law “intended very clearly and expressly provides for the declaration of all foodstuffs…whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian”. However, “some food business operators appear to be taking advantage – when misreading the regulations, the fact that the law does not specifically oblige [them] To reveal the source from which the ingredients are obtained – that go into the manufacture / production of foodstuffs, with the exception of … specific express exceptions.”

The court cited the example of the chemical disodium inosinate, a food additive found in instant noodles and potato chips, made commercially from meat or fish. “A simple Google search… shows that it is often obtained from pig fat,” she said.

When such ingredients are used, often “only ingredient codes are disclosed, without actually disclosing on the packaging their source, that is, whether they are vegetable or animal, or have been chemically manufactured in a laboratory,” the court said. Of the animals, they are considered vegetarian by sticking the green dot.”

So what are the directives issued by the court?

The court said that the use of non-vegetarian ingredients, even in a “minor percentage”, “would render such food items non-vegetarian, would offend the religious and cultural sentiments/sentiments of strict vegetarians, and would interfere with their right to freely profess, practice and propagate their religion and beliefs.”

The court said that the authorities’ failure to verify such loopholes results in non-compliance with the 2006 Food Safety Standards Act and regulations.

It directed food business operators “to ensure full and strict compliance with Regulation 2.2.2 (4)”, (“Declaration on Vegetarian or Non-Vegetarian”) and noted that “failure to comply… would expose [them] to, among other things, a class action for violating the fundamental rights of the consumer public and a call for punitive damages, apart from prosecution.”


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