On Tuesday, the Supreme Court directed the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to monitor and conduct periodic checks of all carbonated soft drinks citing that the issue relates to the fundamental right to life.
The order was passed by a bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and A K Sikri, who were hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) that had sought the 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 carbonated drinks,” the bench said. “The matter relates to the fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.”
FoodNavigator-Asia contacted the Indian Beverage Association for its response to this order, but no comments have been forthcoming.
This order comes almost a year after the same court had reserved its order on the said PIL, filed in 2004, for setting up a committee to evaluate the alleged harmful effects of soft drinks on human health.
That PIL also called for tougher labelling regulations for such drinks, detailing their ingredients and for the food safety watchdog to regulate “misleading” advertisements targeting children.
The defence’s case
On the defence side, soft drink major PepsiCo’s counsel 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.
In 2011, the Supreme Court had asked FSSAI to reconstitute independent scientific panels to look into the harmful effects of chemicals in carbonated drinks.
The panel passed an order after examining various ingredients of carbonated drinks—artificial sweetener, carbon dioxide, colouring agents, benzoic acid and caffeine—that these ingredients, under proscribed limits, would pose no health hazards.
The defence counsel had also cited the Indian Council of Medical Research, which had also publicly concluded that no health hazard would be caused if the ingredients were within the proscribed limits.