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The Supreme Court judgement this month is clear and much needed.
Food safety violations are punishable not just under the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSS Act) but also under the IPC (Indian Penal Code).
Food safety violations are what I call one of the “big hidden mass crimes in India”. These are crimes that lead to hundreds of thousands or even millions of incidents of damage, directly affecting millions of people every day and causing immense damage to people, families, communities and to India as a country.
Unfortunately, these mass crimes do not receive the level of attention and resources that they deserve, from government, media and society. An example of such a mass crime is the almost million missing girls who should exist in India but do not. It is the number behind the gender ratio gap amongst babies born in that year.
Food safety issues are similar. Poor food safety is ubiquitous in our country. Food safety violations happen in homes, mom and pop stores, roadside eateries, vegetable and fruit markets, restaurants, packaged foods industries and many, many more places.
Poor food safety is directly and indirectly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of cases of disease in India.
The funniest thing is that most of the violators do not even know or acknowledge the criminal nature of their actions. They do not believe they are doing anything that deserves jail time.
We must move beyond petty fines for food safety violations, and must take fast track action with mandatory jail time and/or very hefty fines. We need to see such action taken for a wide range of cases in almost every part of the country.
Public consciousness and knowledge on food safety issues must go up and the best place to start is a lot of violators getting caught and getting punished. That should wake up communities, wake up the media and increase public knowledge about these things.
Here is a link to download a copy of the judgement: