A bench of Delhi High Court comprising of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Dinesh Kumar Sharma issued a direction to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regarding the clear labeling of Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian nature of food items. The ambiguity due to ill/non-marking of food items leads to infringement of rights under Articles 21 and 25 respectively.
This comes after a couple of months from the previous judgment of Delhi High Court in December 2021, where the court held that the food business operators needed to give “full and complete” disclosure about the ingredients which have been used to manufacture the product. The Delhi High Court in its previous order had observed that everyone had the right to know what they were consuming. Further, the high court had observed that not only the component but also its origin source must be confirmed as being plant-based, animal-based, or chemically manufactured.
In the current order, the Delhi High Court has asked for clearly stating if the product is vegetarian or non-vegetarian via the respective green and red symbols. Citing the 2011 regulations under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 the court observed that the food business operators are taking undue advantage of the regulations which though mandated complete disclosure but exempted compound ingredients below 5% from being disclosed. The bench remarked that though the concentration would be low but even the slightest inclusion of an animal-sourced ingredient (except milk and milk products) would render the food article as being non-vegetarian and not being aware of it grossly violates the rights under Articles 21 and 25 as some religions/sects follow the principle of strict vegetarianism.
The petitioners were Ram Gau Raksha Dal, a non-governmental trust working for the welfare and safety of cows. The members of the trust are from the Namdhari sect of Sikhs who profess to principles of strict vegetarianism and claim that their religious beliefs prohibit the use or consumption of any product containing any component sourced from animals. Their strict adherence to the principles of vegetarianism led to the filing of this petition, demanding the authorities to mandate clear demarcation of food items being veg or non-veg.
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