In school, we were taught how to test for adulterants in various food products like chilli powder, instant coffee, milk, etc. I distinctly remember managing to figure out that the coffee was mixed with chicory just by the smell (I’m still pretty proud of myself). Lately, I’ve discovered that food can be adulterated with substances way more harmful than chicory (which is a safe additive by the way), and it appears that the Law Commission and the Supreme Court have as well.
The Law Commission, in its 264th Report, recommended that persons found guilty of food adulteration be punished with life imprisonment. The Commission recommends that non-grievous injury caused by food adulteration attract a jail term of 1 year and a ₹3 lakh fine; in case of death of a person, the adulterer would be imprisoned for life and fined ₹10 lakh. These measures were proposed in light of the Supreme Court directing the Central government to come up with suitable amendments to the existing law to bring it on par with state amendments made by Odisha, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
If you ask me, this move has been long overdue. Especially when one takes a look at the kind of adulterants found in food these days. Consider this, a pani puri vendor was recently arrested in Ahmedabad for mixing toilet cleaner in his product, and he was sentenced to just six months in jail. Also, a study by the Department of Biochemistry, Bhavan’s Vivekananda College found adulterants like formalin, urea, hydrogen peroxide, and detergents in milk. The side effects of these substances range from indigestion to kidney problems and cancer.
Food adulteration is a huge problem in India, especially because we have a massive unorganised sector. Adulterated food has the potential to, and in fact does, kill people. The only way to even have a chance of tackling this problem is through strict laws, and effective implementation of the law. I sincerely hope the recommendations of the Law Commission are accepted and the law is suitably amended. People like the pani puri wala who put toilet cleaner in his food should not be getting away with just six months in jail!