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India, known as the farming hub of the globe, has a myriad of regulations and laws governing its food, beverages, and agriculture industries. In this article, we, the legal experts from SimranLaw, will delve into these intricate legal provisions, shedding light on the complex issues that revolve around this critical sector.
1. The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act)
One of the principal regulations affecting the food and beverages industry is the FSS Act. It consolidated multiple food safety-related laws into a single statute and established the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
Under this Act, it is mandatory for all food business operators to acquire a license or registration. It also sets standards for food products, promotes hygiene and safety, regulates the manufacturing, storage, distribution, and sale of food, and includes provision for penalties in case of non-compliance.
In ‘Som Prakash Shukla v. Union of India (2019)’, it was held that selling food items that do not conform to the standards set by FSSAI constitutes an offense under FSS Act and can lead to penalties or imprisonment.
2. Essential Commodities Act, 1955
This Act empowers the Central Government to regulate or prohibit the production, supply, and distribution of essential commodities to maintain or increase their supply and equitably distribute them. ‘Essential commodities’ includes food crops such as wheat, rice, and pulses, raw jute and jute textiles, seeds of food crops, etc.
In ‘M/s Shree Ganesh Rice Mill v State Of Haryana (2017)’, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the state’s authority to confiscate stocks of rice millers who were found to violate provisions of this Act.
3. Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act (APMC Act)
Each state in India has its own APMC Act, which establishes and controls the agricultural markets. It requires all agricultural products to be sold only in government-regulated markets, ‘mandis’, and prohibits free trade outside these markets.
However, the recent Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 allows farmers to sell their produce outside APMC ‘mandis’ and engage in contract farming. Despite being met with widespread protests from farmers, the Supreme Court, in ‘Rakesh Vaishnav & Ors. v Union of India (2021)’, upheld the constitutional validity of this Act.
4. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA), 1954
The PFA, now superseded by the FSS Act, was created to curb food adulteration and ensure pure and wholesome food to consumers. It set standards for food additives, contaminants, packaging, and labeling.
In ‘Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Kishan Singh (1992)’, the Supreme Court upheld a conviction under the PFA where the accused was selling adulterated milk, emphasizing that the sale of adulterated food is a danger to public health.
5. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986
This Act provides a mechanism for consumer disputes and grievances regarding defective goods or deficiency in services. Under this Act, consumers can seek compensation for goods and services harmful to life and property.
In ‘Indian Medical Association v V P Shantha (1995)’, it was established that services provided by a service provider would be deemed deficient if they fall below the standard that can ordinarily be expected.
Understanding the complexities of these governing laws is crucial for any entity involved in the agriculture, food, and beverages sector. Non-compliance not only results in penalties but can also damage business reputation significantly. At SimranLaw, we guide our clients through these intricate legal frameworks, ensuring they operate within the confines of the law while maximizing their business potential.