The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had failed to regulate mislabelling of organic products and scientific claims, the CCF alleged in a legal notice sent to the government agency.
In the notice, the federation said the breach had been due to poor enforcement, and has demanded strict, punitive action to be taken against those who have allegedly broken the FSSAI’s rules.
In particular, the CCF had taken umbrage to supposedly “organic” dry ginger powder that informed consumers on its label that non-organic food would “protect food from cancer-causing pesticides”.
Another organic product, it claimed, said “conventional crops have high amounts of toxins”, whereas the use of composted manure “reduces chances of various diseases like cancer, brain damage and infant abnormalities”.
To support its claims, the CCF pointed out that the US Department of Agriculture does not allow claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than food that is produced conventionally.
The trade body accused the government of lacking a “strong, competent and active watchdog” when it comes to organic certification, which is currently carried out by private agencies.
The FSSAI, which has ostensibly ramped up its efforts to combat food fraud over the last year, has not yet responded publicly to the federation’s legal notice.
Last month, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute detected pesticides in around one-third of almost 160 organic vegetable samples in Delhi even though the use of synthetic herbicides and pesticides are prohibited under Indian organic regulations. Ten of these samples exceeded the maximum recommended limits in the country.
The domestic market for organic food is estimated to be worth Rs1,000cr (US$161m) and increasing at an annual rate of 20%, according to 2012 figures.
The CCF also called on the FSSAI to adopt a strong approval system that would require organic food sellers to sign a legally-binding affidavit that prove they adhere to organic standards.