The Madras High Court gave the ruling last week after a spice exporter challenged SBI’s authority to impound its consignment of 14.7 metric tonnes of red chilli powder.
The consignment, which was set for export to the United Arab Emirates, was quarantined by SBI, as it was found to contain Sudan IV, a carcinogenic dye considered toxic for human consumption.
The exporter, Chennai-based Rams Exim, petitioned the court seeking re-examination of the samples by another health testing agency.
Rams Exim contended that another private agency had cleared its consignments in its testing at the time of sourcing the product.
SBI authority affirmed
However, the judge upheld SBI’s authority in the matter. It had detected 15mg of Sudan IV in every kg of the red chilli powder through an analysis conducted by its own authorised testing agency.
Further, the judge upheld SBI’s order for the consignment to be destroyed in the presence of its officers, as there was a threat of the chilli powder being sold in the domestic market.
The judge said out that even though the board was constituted for the promotion of spice exports, “it also served as an international link between exporters and buyers abroad and as such, had the right to monitor quality of exports.”
Chilli powder exports from India came under the spotlight in 2003, when the EU issued a Rapid Alert Notification on the food products due to the presence of Sudan Dye in the consignments exported by Indian exporters to Europe.
Following the alert, the board started a mandatory quality check in respect of products containing chilli and turmeric powder for consumption in both domestic and export markets.