Consumer Online Foundation and Patient Safety and Access Initiative of India Foundation (a PSM India Initiative) celebrate National Consumer Day on 24th December 2015 in Jaipur along with the Government of Rajasthan. Discussions shall take place on the theme of the day on how to improve accessibility to “Safe and Healthy food: combating food adulteration”.
Accessibility to safe and healthy food is a consumer right and of prime importance to all consumers as it plays a key role is ensuring a healthy body.
The growing menace of food adulteration especially in Dairy products is alarming and needs serious attention as Consumers are fast falling prey to this demon. 2,000 litres of synthetic milk was seized in Patiala. This milk was being used for manufacturing sweets, ghee, khoa, cream, and other dairy products. The products made and consumed from this synthetic milk is known to cause irreparable damage to our body organs especially our kidneys. It is also of course a slow poison for consumers suffering from hypertension and heart ailments. Loose milk is not only adulterated with water of dubious quality, it is also exposed to dust and light, both of which cause rapid deterioration.
Milk is a good example to demonstrate that such food is required every day for children and adults, irrespective of being rich or poor. Several such food accessed every day by consumers are found to be adulterated by serious adulterants, which are not only unhealthy but dangerous and threat to life and body organs. The food colours that are often used contain lead and arsenic and can damage kidneys. Food adulteration certainly has become one of the biggest proliferating industry.
What is however disturbing is the complete indifference being shown by the consumers as well as the regulatory bodies in checking the menace of adulterated food products, fruits and vegetables.
Consumers must fight against all such food adulteration and encourage safe and healthy food made accessible to all at the most affordable price. We must demand a strong law to catch the culprits and punish them with strong deterrents like life imprisonment and or confiscation of all assets. What is urgently needed is a massive and widespread clamp down against the unscrupulous adulterators. This will take some time, but let us begin with what we can do. Join us at Rajasthan on 24th December and pledge towards a healthy nation; Zero Adulteration India !
NEW DELHI: Selling pre-packaged items higher than maximum retail price (MRP) will soon attract higher penalty, including a jail term. In a move to tame such violators, the consumer affairs ministry is overhauling the Legal Metrology Act.
While it had proposed to increase the margin of error in weightage from 1 gram to 2 gram in the proposed amendment and allowed self-declaration of grammage by manufacturers and sellers, strong opposition by activists has forced the ministry to roll back both the proposals.
However, to bring some relief to manufacturers, distributors and sellers who make minor mistakes while mentioning details on the packets, the proposed law will decriminalize such offences.
“At present, this is a criminal offence. We are proposing to make it a civil offence while increasing fine for not conforming to the norms,” said an official of the consumer affairs department.
To put a check on manufacturers, importers and sellers of pre-packaged items the ministry has proposed to introduce a fine of Rs 5,000 to Rs 20,000 for the first such offence. A second offence will attract a higher penalty of Rs 20,000 to Rs 1 lakh. If the seller or distributor still commits the same offence, they may face one year imprisonment along with fine.
Officials said that the present Legal Metrology Act does not have this provision and therefore there is little deterrence for unscrupulous sellers who charge more than the MRP.
“Once the amendment is enacted we will issue advisories to sellers and consumers on the need to provide and take a receipt,” the official said.
On how the consumer activists played a key role in rolling back of contentious proposals, Bejon Misra, an expert on consumer policy , said, “We notice how manufacturers and sellers fleece consumers. We all see how the designs and packets are big to attract buyers. But when you open them there is little for the consumer.”
September 6, 2014:
Breast cancer survivor Akriti Sharma is on regular medication. She is apprehensive that the plastic bottles she has her medicines from could have an adverse effect on her health.
“In any case, plastics are also known to damage the environment. So, why use something which is meant to help you but can end up damaging you?”
Sharma’s concern may not be something too many consumers are aware of. But could the packaging of our medicines, indeed, push us towards more diseases? Pro-green groups and consumer activists believe so and so does the Government. Chemicals could leach into life-saving medicines if plastics are used for packaging, they say. But the plastic industry counters that plastic is a legally and globally accepted packing material.
Last year, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) had recommended that the pharmaceutical industry switch to glass from plastic for packaging liquid oral medicines. A senior Health Ministry official said expert opinion from the Indian Council of Medical Research further endorsed DTAB’s suggestions.
“Samples were tested and it was found to have high chemical leaching. A report is being sent to the Minister. A notification banning plastic use is expected soon,” the official says. The DTAB had said, “Many chemical additives that give plastic products desirable performance properties have grave negative environmental and human health effects.” These include direct toxicity and endocrine disruption that could lead to cancer, birth defects, immune system suppression and developmental problems in children.
Biswajit Ghosh, President, PET Container Manufacturers’ Association (PCMA), however, points out, “PET bottles are not harmful. The DTAB recommendation is not based on any scientific evidence. Australia, too, has high temperatures. But, they are still using PET bottles. If the Ministry goes ahead with this ban, we are prepared to go to the court.”
Calling the ban “unjust,” IDMA President, Manish Doshi says: “PET bottles are being used widely in packaging of oral liquids and tablets in the US, Europe as well as Japan.” But, Toxics Link’s Associate Director Satish Sinha disagrees. “An important factor is the temperature variance between the US and India. Here, because of high temperatures, the possibility of leaching is more.”
Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General with the Centre for Science and Environment, cautions: “There is a tendency to re-use glass bottles and if they are not disinfected, it can result in other infections arising out of biological contaminants.”
On the other hand, consumer policy expert Bejon Misra, points out, “Medicines across the world are researched and developed under test conditions using glass apparatus and not plastic. The final quality of medicines and its efficacy are tested in a glass bottle and not plastic bottles.”
Plastic medicine bottles, in fact, go beyond affecting consumers, as pro-greens point to medical waste and plastics’ contribution to environmental hazard.
Sinha says, “Due to poor segregation practice of medical waste, plastic bottles often end up in yellow bags designated for incineration. This is a serious concern because Indian rules restrict the burning of plastic as it generates dioxin and furans.”
NEW DELHI: Keeping in mind the trend of consumers buying more packaged items, the government will soon bring comprehensive change in the laws and rules governing weight of food packets. Consumer activists have also pushed for “zero” error in the quantity of a packed item at the time of packaging and when a person consumes it.
To ensure that manufacturers, importers and sellers don’t sell any pre-packaged item at more than the retail sale price, the consumer affairs ministry has proposed to introduce a fine of Rs 5,000 to Rs 20,000 for first such offence. The second offence will bring higher fine of Rs 20,000 to Rs 1 lakh. If the seller or distributor still commits the same offence, they may face one year imprisonment along with fine.
The proposals discussed with industry representatives and consumer activists last week also include higher penalty for selling non-standard packages. For repeat offenders, the proposal is to increase the penalty up to Rs 5 lakh. At present, it is between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh. Non-standard packages are those which don’t comply to the norms of quantity, ingredients and other necessary information that need to be printed on the packages.
“We have noticed how manufacturers and sellers fleece consumers. We all see how the designs and packets are big to attract buyers. But when you open them there is little for the consumer. There is a need to have a standard,” Bejon Misra, an expert on consumer policy, said.
He added that consumer activists have also raised the demand that consumers should not be made to pay for the quantity that’s not there. “There should be zero defect and zero loss. All packs we picked up in recent years for testing showed less quantity when opened. This time there is seriousness in the department to bring some relief to consumers rather than making rules which only help governments to generate more revenue,” Misra said.
Argue that commercial activity cannot come under Prize Chits Act Trade bodies and consumers’ associations have urged the Central Government to bring in a policy framework for direct selling business.
The recent arrest of William Pinckney, CEO of Amway India, by the Andhra Pradesh police is unfortunate and highlights the need to define the business in the provisions of the Prize Chits and Money Circulation Scheme Banning Act 1978, says Bejon Misra, former Chairman of the Consumer Coordination Council and international consumer policy expert. This, he says, will ensure that direct selling companies are not penalised, as they do not sell financial products.
Misra says the Government must immediately pass an ordinance to protect the genuine direct selling companies and subsequently enact an exclusive law to protect the interests of consumers who use the products of such companies.
Ajay Khanna, Chairman of India Direct Selling Association and Country Manager, Herbalife (another direct-selling FMCG company), argues that there is a clash between pyramid / Ponzi schemes and the direct selling industry. Direct selling differs both in form and function from such fraudulent schemes. The Prize Chits and Money Circulation law was formed for financial establishments. Direct selling should not be covered under its purview as it is a trade and commerce activity.
Mohan R. Lavi, Member, Ficci Sub-Committee on Direct Selling, said direct selling has not been defined in any Act.
Because of this, other Acts (such as the Prize Chit and Money Circulation Act) are being misinterpreted and applied to such cases. This, he said, is unfortunate as the PCMC Act is primarily concerned with distribution of monies while in the case of Amway there are underlying products involved. I do not see money being circulated amongst Amway members without the sale of an underlying product, he said.