The consignment, meant for export to Dubai, contained Sudan IV, a carcinogenic dye

The Madras High Court Bench here has refused to come to the rescue of a Chennai based export and import firm whose consignment of 14.660 metric tonnes of red chilli powder, meant to be imported to Jabel Ali port in the United Arab Emirates, was ordered to be destroyed by the Spices Board of India as it contained Sudan IV, a carcinogenic dye.

Justice K. Chandru dismissed a writ petition filed by Rams Exim, based at Kathivakkam in Chennai, seeking a direction to the Spices Board to draw samples from the consignment, lying at the Container Freight Station Park in Tuticorin, and send them for re-examination at the King Institute of Preventive Medicine and Research at Guindy in Chennai.

The judge rejected the petitioner's plea on the ground that it had no legal or enforceable right to seek such a direction when the Spices Board had found the consignment to contain 15ug of Sudan IV in every kilogram of the red chilli powder through an analysis conducted by an authorised agency.

The consignment was ordered to be destroyed as there was a threat of the chilli powder being sold in the domestic market.

Mr. Justice Chandru pointed out that the Spices Board was a statutory body governed by the Spices Board Act 1986. It was constituted for the development of export of spices and control of cardamom industry. It also served as an international link between Indian exporters and importers abroad. Its activities included registration and licensing of all spice exporters and monitoring quality of exports.

The Board started mandatory quality check in respect of chilli powder, products containing chilli and turmeric powder in 2003 when the European Union had issued Rapid Alert Notification on the food products for presence of ‘Sudan Dye' in the consignments exported by Indian exporters to Europe. The dye was a harmful chemical that could cause cancer.

In case of the petitioner firm, it had actually intended to export the chilli powder along with 3.090 tonnes of Kashmiri red chillies, and 0.640 tonnes of turmeric powder.

The Spices Board did not subject the turmeric powder to chemical analysis as it was not required for exports meant to Dubai. There were no hurdles in exporting the Kashmiri red chillies too as it passed the parameters of the analysis.

Only the red chilli powder was found to have traces of Sudan IV. Though the petitioner firm contended that the powder was not processed by it but procured from another trader and that it was found fit to be exported by a private laboratory, the Spices Board rejected both the contentions and ordered for destroying it in the presence of its officers so that it does not end up being sold in the domestic market.

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