The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to monitor and conduct periodic checks of all carbonated soft drinks as the issue relates to citizens’ fundamental right to life guaranteed under the Constitution.
A bench of justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri passed the direction while disposing of a PIL that had sought constitution of a separate panel to regulate soft drinks to protect citizens from their “deleterious effects.”
“The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India will conduct periodic checks of the carbonated drinks,” the bench said, adding the matter relates to the fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The apex court had on December 13, 2012, reserved its order on a PIL filed in 2004 for setting up a committee to evaluate the alleged harmful effects of soft drinks on human health and to properly label the beverages, detailing their ingredients.
The plea had alleged that the ingredients of carbonated drinks have “serious deleterious effects on human health” and no action has been taken to test and assess the risk posed by such beverages.
Soft drink major Pepsi’s counsel, however, had opposed the PIL, saying the Food Safety and Standards Act aimed at regulating the standards of beverages was “sufficient” and all the regulations were in place.
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), in its petition filed in 2004, had also sought directions to cola firms to disclose the contents/ingredients on the label of their bottles and to regulate “misleading” advertisements targeting children.
The apex court had earlier asked FSSAI to file “records” relating to proceedings of its panels, formed following a judicial order on the PIL filed by the NGO.
The court’s direction came after Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO CPIL, had alleged that instead of an expert panel, another FSSAI panel on labelling and claims/ advertisement should consider the grievance of additives in carbonated drinks.
The apex court, on February 8, 2011, had asked FSSAI to reconstitute independent scientific panels to look into the harmful effects of chemicals in carbonated beverages.
FSSAI had passed an order after examining various ingredients of carbonated beverages such as artificial sweetener, phosphoric, malic and citric acid, carbon dioxide, colouring agents, benzoic acid and caffeine.
FSSAI’s panel had said these ingredients, under prescribed limits, would pose no health hazards.
Scientific Panel on Labelling and Claims/Advertisement of FSSAI, in its order, had said, “The expert group reviewed the scientific studies and Food Safety Standards(FSS) Regulations, 2011 and confirmed the following:
“All ingredients mentioned above are within the levels as prescribed in the FSS Regulations, 2011 as per the ‘Analytical Data on Carbonated Beverages’, produced by Food Research and Standardisation Laboratory, Ghaziabad.
“Based on updated scientific reviews, if these ingredients are consumed within the prescribed levels, no health hazard would be caused in humans,”
Earlier, counsel appearing for FSSAI, had said the PIL be disposed of as all reliefs claimed by CPIL “stand satisfied.”
He had said that the Food Safety and Standards Act which came into effect in 2006 took care of all the issues raised in the petition.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had also said that its study concluded that no health hazard would be caused if the ingredients are within prescribed limits.