The Delhi High Court Wednesday said it is “fundamental” that a “full and complete disclosure” regarding a food article being “vegetarian or non-vegetarian” be made since fundamental rights are impacted by what is offered on the platter.
The court had in December 2021 ruled that everyone has a right to know what they are consuming and that it is mandatory for all food business operators to make a “full and complete disclosure” of all ingredients that go into the manufacturing of any food article.
The division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice D K Sharma Wednesday took note of a communication issued by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India after the court order and said that the same does not very clearly bring out the obligation put on food business operators regarding the disclosure.
Directing the FSSAI to issue a fresh communication to authorities and to give it wide publicity in national dailies, the court said the obligation cast on food business operators regarding disclosure about vegetarian or non-vegetarian nature of food stands independent of the regulation which talks about labelling of prepackaged food.
“The mere fact that under the labelling regulations, the food business operator is not necessarily required to make a disclosure of compound ingredients which constitute less than five percent of the food, from disclosing the ingredients of compound ingredients does not exempt the food business operator from making a full and complete disclosure … to the concerned authorities,” said the court.
It added that under the garb of exemption, the operators cannot hide from authorities any ingredient in whatever measure it may be used.
“The said disclosure is necessary irrespective of exemption granted from making a disclosure on the label of the prepackaged food article. Thus the authorities would be aware of each and every ingredient/constituent of a compound ingredient and would therefore be aware of the fact that whether any of the ingredients is sourced from animals,” it added.
The order was passed while hearing the petition filed by Ram Gaua Raksha Dal, a non-governmental trust, which has argued that they want their ‘right to know’ to be respected and for that the authorities should be directed that there should not only be strict implementation of the existing rules on labeling of food products and cosmetics but it should be made mandatory for all other items.
The members of the Trust are followers of Namdhari sect of Sikhism and they profess strict vegetarianism, the court has been told in the petition.
“The members do not know which of the products available in the market are fit for consumption by those professing strict vegetarianism because a lot of products including eatables are either having either non-vegetarian ingredients or undergo processing in such a way that they cannot be described as strictly vegetarian,” the plea argues.