A PIL had been filed in the Gujarat High Court over the sensitive issue of authenticity of food categorised as vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The PIL questions the government on the procedure through which it ascertains whether the food packaging with the green label is vegetarian or not.
In a shocking revelation, Gujarat Government has admitted in the court that it has no mechanism or facilities whatsoever to ascertain the authenticity of food packed as vegetarian. The controversy further deepened when the scientific officer of the Food and Drugs laboratory stated that the green label over the food packet gives no surety of food not containing any eggs.
Gujarat High Court’s 2-judge bench of Justice Vinit Kothari and Justice Umesh Trivedi had asked the Gujarat Government to submit a report on the same in three weeks. On August 31, the said time frame came to an end following which the hearing took place.
The state government also admitted to the fact that the state has no laboratories to test any food for its non-vegetarian contents and added that it needs time to look into this matter. The government even admitted that as of now, it cannot do anything to ascertain the contents. The applicant reinforced the fact that the government should prioritise this and make efforts to uphold the religious sentiments of the citizens. Surprisingly, a law does exist in Gujarat, but sadly for the past 20 years, it has always remained just on paper.
Applicant’s lawyer advocate Nimish Kapadia informed the court that this is not the first time his client had appealed to the state government and in the past had done so where the state government failed to give any retort or response to his appeal. It is to be noted that even today, the state government did not have any substantial idea about this and admitted that it has no resources available in the form of a laboratory to find out the contents. The government added that they need time to undertake research. They have to consult the Union Government for the same as well.
The court hit the state government hard by nailing it with questions such as how would they ascertain the ingredients of packaged food as vegetarian or non – vegetarian? Will they entirely rely on the green/red sticker mark? The court then reprimanded the government to test the food to determine its contents and ensure to not hurt the religious sentiments of any citizen, as well.
The court further added that the Indian Constitution has allowed its citizens to follow the religion of their choice; at any point in time, if a vegetarian by mistake consumes non-vegetarian food, who shall be liable for hurting the religious sentiments? It is a matter of astonishment that the government cannot even test the food.
The test reports of food samples are not 100% authentic, yet one can easily obtain a 100% vegetarian food certification in Gujarat. The Food and Drug laboratory at Vadodara stated that it has no sophisticated instruments and resources to detect the presence of malicious or non-vegetarian contents in a vegetarian food sample, yet, the laboratory doles out vegetarian product certificates. Law’s pertaining to the standards of vegetarian food safety are also not in order.
The high court has given the state government three weeks to set up a mechanism for food inspection and ascertaining contents, yet again. The PIL also stressed that the addition of eggs to vegetarian food has not been discussed enough, and its testing and appropriate laws are necessary.