‘Maximum punishment’: India’s Maharashtra FDA to prescribe life imprisonment for food adulteration violators
“The Maharashtra government will bring amendments to […] the Prevention of Food Adulteration (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 1969 to provide life imprisonment for the accused,” said Maharashtra FDA Minister Girish Bapat.
“[Life imprisonment will be the] maximum punishment for adulteration cases.”
Bapat also revealed that President Ramnath Kovind had agreed to other states’ amendments to the respective state laws, prescribing life terms for the violators.
This reportedly came after Congress member Sanjay Dutt raised the issue of food adulteration cases having increased at an alarming rate in Maharashtra over the last three years, as per data from the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry.
Dutt also claimed that Maharashtra ranked second in the country in terms of food adulteration case reports in the 2016/2017 period, and ‘demanded that the concerned ministry strengthen [monitoring] to ensure swift action and conviction of those guilty,’ according to The Indian Express.
Maharashtra is the second-most populous and third-largest state in India, comprising India’s most populous city, Mumbai.
In September this year, over two-thirds of all milk and milk products in India were found to be in violation of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) standards despite a US$14,000 (INR1mn) penalty proposal.
The most commonly found adulterants were detergent, white paint, caustic soda and refined oil.
Bapat added that the FDA is also concerned with adulterated food products during the Diwali/Deepavali period, and are on high alert.
The FDA has confiscated adulterated sweets from the Gujarat area, he told India Today.
Food products the agency’s vigilance squads are watching are milk, edible oils, sweets, and dairy products khawa and mawa.
"Keeping in mind the festive season, the government has decided to release channa dal, udad dal to be distributed through Fair Price Shops. People can buy 2 Kgs of these dals on ration cards at the rate of Rs 35 (US$0.48) and Rs 44 (US$0.60) per Kg respectively," added Bapat.
FSSAI also ordered special surveillance of milk and milk products during the festival period.
The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act in Maharashtra
Maharashtra has amended the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act multiple times in the past, but with limited success in preventing adulteration thus far.
The Prevention of Food Adulteration (Maharashtra Amendment) Act came into force in 1969, taking precedence over the Act’s original 1954 nation-wide version.
In 1975, wording was amended to give more authority to the State Government over just ‘local authority’.
In 2007, Maharashtra broadened police authority under the Act to make ‘all offences punishable under this Act cognisable (here, Inspectors would now able to make arrests without a warrant) and non-bailable’.