New Delhi, Oct. 22: The Supreme Court today directed all states and Union territories to conduct periodic checks on the markets within their territories for high levels of pesticides and insecticides in the foodstuff they sell.
A two-judge bench hearing a public interest litigation agreed with the Centre that the various food safety laws did cover all the areas of concern mentioned by the petitioner, but added: “The question is only with regard to their enforcement.”
It pointed out that “children and infants are uniquely susceptible to the effects of pesticides” and added that hazardous food articles posed a threat to the fundamental right to life guaranteed by the Constitution.
“Many of the food articles like rice, vegetables, meat, fish, milk, fruits available in the market contain insecticide or pesticide residues beyond tolerable limits, causing serious health hazards. We notice (that) fruit-based soft drinks available in various fruit stalls contain such pesticide residues in alarming proportions,” the bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said.
“Enjoyment of life and its attainment, including the right to life and human dignity, encompasses within its ambit availability of articles of food without insecticide or pesticide residues, veterinary drug residues, antibiotic residues, solvent residues, etc.”
The court added: “We, therefore, direct the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India to gear up their resources with their counterparts in all the states and Union territories and conduct periodic inspections and monitoring of major fruit and vegetable markets.”
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation had sought an independent expert/technical committee to evaluate the harmful effects of soft drinks on health, particularly of children.
It had also sought a directive to the Centre to put in place a regulatory regime to control and check the contents of chemical additives to foods, including soft drinks.
The petitioner had also urged that soft drinks manufacturers be compelled to reveal their products’ contents and their specific quantities on the labels, and to issue appropriate warnings if any particular ingredient was potentially harmful to consumers’ health.
During the arguments, the Centre had said the Food Supply and Standards Act, 2006, along with the Rules and Regulations framed in 2011, constituted a vigorous regulatory regime that took care of all the fears raised. It said the act and the rules were enforced meticulously by the Food and Safety Standards Authority.