SC pulls up Centre over contents of soft drinks

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 4, 2010 - 20:03

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up
the Centre for delaying the notification making it mandatory
for soft drinks manufacturers like Coco Cola and Pespsi to
disclose actual contents of their products.

"Should people gulp down poison till then?" Justice Gyan
Sudha Mishra, the sole woman judge in the apex court, snapped
at the Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA), counsel who
submitted it would take at least three months for the draft
regulations to be issued.

Justice Mishra, who was part of the bench headed by
Justice Dalveer Bhandari, also told the government that it was
improper to appoint top executives of the cola and other food
products manufacturers to the "scientific panels" of the
authority appointed to determine the quality of the products.

"How can they be made members of the panel? How can a
person judge his own case?" Justice Mishra told Additional
Solicitor General Indira Jaising appearing for the Centre.

Concurring with her views, Justice Bhandari said the
petitioner Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) had a
valid apprehension that appointment of executives from private
companies in the scientific panel of the government body would
lead to "conflict of interest".

"People must have faith in the panel. People with vested
interests cannot be part of the panel,"Justice Bhandari said.

The apex court made the remarks while granting three
months time to the Food Safety and Standards Authority to
finalise the draft regulations to regulate the sale and
distribution of soft drinks and other food products throughout
the country.

The CPIL had filed the PIL in 2004 seeking regulations
and quality checks on the sale of soft drinks and cited
various purported findings that they contained harmful
substance.

Counsel for FSSA submitted the proposed regulations under
the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 would not only regulate
the quality of the soft drinks but also other food products in
the markets like jams, jellies, etc.

CPIL counsel Prashant Bhushan alleged the general public
was exposed to a serious of gastro-intestinal and other
ailments due to heavy contents of pesticides, phosphoric
acid, asphartame and other dangerous substance present in the
soft drinks.

However, senior counsel K K Venugopal and Mukul Rohtagi,
appearing for soft drink makers, submitted the manufacturers
were taking all necessary steps to inform the general public
by appropriately printing on the bottles or the caps the
relevant contents of the products.

The apex court posted the matter for further hearing
to August 3.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, May 4, 2010 - 20:03

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