It was a different consumer day than other years celebrated at Vigyan Bhawan on 22nd of December 2015, focusing on health and safety of food emerging into basic question of “swachata”.The past year was full of events with issues of safety, food and health. Seminar started with a note from Secretary, Consumer affairs Shri Vishvanathan announcing 90% disposal of consumer cases and observed presence of a very strong consumer movement in the country. BIS bill passes and Consumer Protection bill already tabled in Lok Sabha pending with Standing Committee and expecting soon light of the day.
Deliberation by Shri Ashish Bahuguna Secretary, FSSAI was unique of its style and wished that people must understand the difference between safety and healthy. Healthy food is the choice of public which cannot be imposed. If someone wants to eat street food under un hygienic conditions, there cannot be any ban on it. But compromising safety norms is an issue concerning State .As far as matter comes under the preview of state, healthy food can be made a first choice. Food to the children in the schools must adhere to the norms of healthy food and junk food can be restricted not by choice but by directions.
On the point of safe food ,generally public at large is allured by the dazzling advertisements and are tempted to buy without checking the label and contents of the packed food and hardly cares whether it is consumable or not. One more very valid point discussed was that even if one looks at the contents of the food ,every one cannot understand how much quantity of the contents is safe for human consumption .Public needs to be educated about it is the duty of the state /authority to fix the parameter as to what falls under the permissible range . Magi matter was the glaring example of the last year events. Shri Ashish Bahuguna also expressed the need to change the law on this point as it cannot be expected everyone to understand the quantum and quality parameters suitable to their health. By stating “how much” will no more serve the purpose?
Another important question discussed in detail was the words used “best before” and “date of expiry”. Date of expiry gives a message that food is not safe after expiry date. But nothing is clear what would be the health hazard due to chemicals in the food if used after best before date. Hence this also needs to be changed for making it more specific. But above all, consumers have to play a bigger role to make India a Swatch Bharat by choosing Swatch Bhojan and hygienic place for eating. Authority is making norms for vendors also to make ‘Swatch Bharat’& Swasth Bharat a successful move in the area of food also.
Further authority has now taken up with food industries and academy for implementing safety and health norms for food manufacturing and consumption of food in academies which is a very innovative move of the time.
Now comes comments from judicial desk, Justice D. K. Jain, President National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission and retired judge of Supreme Court of India. Referring to article. 47 of our constitution ,Justice Jain considered the issue as constitutional question concerning standard of living and importance of health of the citizens of India and the issue falls under directive Principals of State Policy .Food safety act does not provide sufficient provisions for punishment and we find gross violation of food safety and health during the festivals. This remains a news item every year without any improvement in practice. Misleading ads are permanent features because there is no strong body for implementation of even the court orders. Order is complied as far as payment to the aggrieved consumer is concerned, rest of the part of direction to the defaulter for not printing the ads again is neither pressed by the consumer nor Consumer Act gives power to the forum/commission unless execution petition is filed for the same. ‘Conditions apply is the most misguiding phrase used by the industries for promotion of their product
Minister for Consumer affairs Shri Ramvilas Paswan highlighted strange thing about India where it is said, no one can think of food without adulteration whereas all over the world, no one can think of adulteration in food. It is strange but true and this is where we have to start with .Consumer day is to be made a consumer movement. Coming back to our cultural heritage, our Veda’s talk of “Poushtik Bhojan” and “Svadisht Bhojan’ both. Ours is a country which is enriched with one full Veda on Ayurvedic Medicines, health and methods of removing illness through natural resources. This also emphasize on healthy food, methods, style &timing of eating specifying how, when and what food should be eaten. Minister said that its women of the country now to come ahead in front position to take the duty to improve quality of food.
It was a great point .We must not forget that consumer movement in India was first started with ladies in Mumbai who raised their voice against poor quality of products. Now we have to focus on quality of food we are being sold and supplied in the market. We must not forget the contribution of some of the NGO’S specially VOICE who had been delivering to the consumers the regular test reports of various products sold out in the market and are awakening them of the quality and comparative study of products available to them. VOICE must now work rigorously on food items
Swasth Bharat and Swatch Bharat was the slogan of the day.
Dr Prem Lata

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