Gutkha, tobacco products face ban in India

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety and standards authority of india

Tobacco and nicotine couldn't be used as ingredients in any food products
Tobacco and nicotine couldn't be used as ingredients in any food products
The passing of the new food safety act in India earlier this month has knelled a death bell for gutkha and tobacco-chewing products like pan masala and supari in the country after a long drawn out battle in courts.

India put in force on August 5 the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which saw the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), a body formed under the act, legally empowered to handle all food safety issues in India.

Under the act passed in 2006, the government of India had notified a complete ban on tobacco chewing products and gutkha by including a clause, which said that tobacco and nicotine couldn't be used as ingredients in any food products.

However, this was almost immediately challenged by manufactures of gutkha and tobacco chewing products in the country in several high courts across the country, saying that these products could not be treated as food.

The matter ultimately reached the Supreme Court of India, which ruled via an order in late 2010 that since pan masala, supari are gutkha are eaten for taste and nourishment, they are all food within the meaning of food safety act.

In addition, the highest judicial body also ruled that under the act, the authority to ban an article of food or an article used as ingredient of food, on the grounds that it is injurious to health, belongs to the government of India.

In effect, with gutkha and chewing tobacco products having been classified as “food”, and the FSSAI becoming a body with legal enforcement powers this month, the production and sale of these products is now effectively banned.

A spokesperson for one of the top gutkha manufacturers in the country said that the companies have for not curtailed the production of these products as the FSSAI has yet to notify them of the ban.

“We are yet to get a legal notice or order from the body. Our next course of action will only be decided and acted upon after that,”​ he said.

The gutkha and tobacco chewing products industry in India has already been reeling with losses due to policies such as the ban on plastic sachets for packaging of these products that came into force this year.

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