The the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) issued written communications to Google and Facebook following a complaint from Food Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) CEO Pawan Agarwal.
"It has come to our notice that some miscreants are misusing various social-media platforms for circulating fake and objectionable material, including false and malicious videos regarding safety and quality of food available in India,” said a MeitY official in the letters.
"Such fake and malicious videos erode the public's confidence about the institutions in India which are performing their job with due diligence.”
"Specific instances like creating false scare of of plastic eggs, plastic rice, melamine in milk. One specific fake video which went viral on social media related to the presence of melamine in milk, wherein it was maliciously projected that FSSAI had given permission for projected that FSSAI had given permission for use of melamine in the milk," he added.
Food manufacturing giants like Nestle India have expressed support for this course of action by FSSAI and MeitY, with an emphasis on making sure consumers do not misunderstand the Indian food industry in any way.
“We welcome steps that tackle fake news and avoid confusion for the consumers,” a Nestle India spokeswoman told us.
“[As] an organization, we are always transparent in our communication on products and are always accessible to all stakeholders to address their queries.”
FSSAI told FoodNavigator-Asia that it was not authorised to share the letter further, but updated that it had conducted a follow-up meeting with Google, Twitter and Facebook in January.
“[The meeting was] to discuss the issue of circulation of false videos/messages related to quality and safety of food products on social media platforms and approaches to deal with practice[s] with far reaching [outcomes],” it said.
Chairing the meeting was FSSAI CEO Pawan Agarwal, and in attendance were representatives from MeitY, Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Both FSSAI and MeitY have not revealed further details on the outcome of the meeting.
Initial FSSAI notice on ‘fake’ food news
In December last year, FSSAI had issued a notice on its website declaring videos circulating on social media such as the one mentioned by MeitY to be false and spiteful, and also mentioned print and electronic media as culpable parties.
Agarwal added that the situation was leading to ‘fear amongst public at large and erodes […] confidence in the food control system in the country’.
“[Such] false propaganda is neither good for citizens nor for food businesses. This also erodes global trust in our food system and food businesses, and potentially has far reaching public health, social and trade implications,” he said.