The Madras High Court has disposed of a plea seeking to ban the use of newspapers and plastic bags for wrapping, packing and serving food after holding that the State Health and Family Welfare department and Commissioner of Food Safety and Drug Administration, Chennai, have taken adequate steps to prevent its use to pack food.
P Amutha, Commissioner, Tamil Nadu Food Safety and Drug Administration Department, had submitted that from December 2016 to March 2019, as many as 567 awareness meetings were held covering schools and colleges, while another 788 such meetings were held for food business operators (FBO). Also, 80,484 of food stalls were inspected during the period, and 3,968 kg newspapers which was kept for packing food were seized and destroyed at all 32 districts in the State.
In May 2017, the Food Safety Department launched a WhatsApp number – 94440 42322 – for complaint redressal on food safety issues in Tamil Nadu. The public are encouraged to lodge complaint against any FBO related to food adulteration, hygiene and other contravention of Food Safety and Standards Act, she added.
However, the bench recorded the circular issued by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) that there was an urgent need to discourage and restrict the use of newspapers for packing of food material, and directed the Commissioner of Food Safety and Home Secretary to implement the FSSAI circulars in letter and spirit.
The bench also recorded the submission of Additional Government Pleader that the Food Safety Commissioner would also make a public notice in the newspapers, both English and in Tamil, to create awareness about not using newspapers for packing food.
The petitioner, V Nandakumar, had moved the plea two years ago stating that unhygienic roadside eateries and small restaurants throughout India were using old newspapers to parcel, wrap and serve food items, which is injurious to health. But the authorities have not taken any steps to ban the usage of newspaper, he had alleged in the petition.