Non-disclosure of food item as vegetarian or non-vegetarian violates rights: HC

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There must be a complete disclosure of a food item being vegetarian or non-vegetarian as the fundamental rights of every person is impacted by what is offered on the platter, the Delhi high court observed on Wednesday.

A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Dinesh Kumar Sharma also directed the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to issue a fresh communication to all the authorities concerned stating the obligation to make clear disclosure as to whether the food article is vegetarian or non-vegetarian.

“Since the right of every person under Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) and Article 25 (freedom to conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) under the Constitution is impacted by what is offered on a platter, in our view it is fundamental that a full and complete disclosure regarding the food article being vegetarian or non-vegetarian is made a part of consumer awareness,” the bench noted.

The court passed the order while hearing a petition filed by Ram Gau Raksha Dal, a non-governmental trust, seeking labelling of products, including food items and cosmetics” as vegetarian or non-vegetarian, not only on the basis of its ingredients but also on the substance used in the manufacturing process.

On December 9, the high court had made it mandatory for all food business operators to make a “full and complete disclosure” of all the ingredients that go into the making of any food item. The court ruled that “every person has a right to know as to what he/she is consuming and nothing can be offered to the person on a platter by resort to deceit, or camouflage”.

On Wednesday, the court agreed with the submission made by the petitioner’s counsel that it is pointless to issue such a communication to the authorities and not to the general public whose fundamental rights are affected.

It said that failure on the part of authorities in ensuring that full and complete disclosure as to whether any packaged food article is vegetarian or non-vegetarian also defeats the object for which the Food Safety and Standards Act was enacted.

“We direct that the fresh communication/order be given wide publicity in all the national dailies,” the bench said.

The court also directed the FSSAI and the Centre to file detailed counter affidavits in the matter and listed the plea for further proceedings on May 21.


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