Monday, January 21, 2008

Centre was asked to frame policy on unbranded eatables
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, August 3
The Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) came out yesterday with the findings that soft drinks being sold in the country were still unsafe and that public health domain in the country was still being severely compromised. The CSE had also pointed out that the directions given by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in this regard had been completely disregarded by the Union Health Ministry and standards for safety blocked because of opposition from cola companies.

However, what may gladden the hearts of the anti-cola lobby is the direction given by the Punjab and Haryana High Court a couple of days ago, asking the Central Government to frame a policy regarding sale of unbranded eatables, including the soft drinks.

This direction was passed by a Division Bench headed by acting Chief Justice Mr Justice H.S. Bedi, during hearing of two public interest petitions, seeking directions to the Centre and the state governments of Punjab and Haryana to prevent manufacture and sale of unbranded eatables as well as those on whose packet/bottle the ingredients and expiry date are not mentioned.

Giving examples and citing the earlier report prepared by the CSE, which had also talked of the presence of large amount of pesticides in soft drinks, the petitioners - Mr Naresh Kadyan, an animal rights activist from Haryana, and Mr Ved Parkash Saini, Director, Netaji Model School, Ropar - had stated that in many cases, the manufacturers of eatables did not mention the ingredients of the product and the expiry date etc.

Apart from seeking directions to the respondents to initiate strict action against companies indulging in such acts, the petitioners had also prayed that the governments should prepare a regulatory mechanism to deal with this situation, which affects the health of the consumers.

In his petition, Mr Saini had prayed that directions be issued to the respondents to protect and save the lives of the citizens by taking requisite measures and action to stop the sale of unsafe, unhygienic, contaminated and poisonous eatables, and soft drinks.

After hearing all sides, the Bench headed by Mr Justice Bedi, while giving a year's time to the Centre to frame a policy to regulate the same, also expressed concern over the casual approach of the Centre while responding to the points raised in the petition.