How to file a consumer complaint against adulteration of food?

Last Updated at: Jan 08, 2020
How to file a consumer complaint against adulteration of food?

Have you ever bought food that was stale, infested with worms or contaminated? If so, what steps did you take to ensure this does not happen again? Most of us have to deal with food safety concerns from time to time, but only a few of us do anything about it. While food safety is given absolute importance in foreign countries, in India, consumers are not fully aware of their rights regarding this issue. Hence, they do not react enough when they witness food safety regulations being violated. But it is high time things changed, and that is what this article aims to help achieve.

When food products are contaminated and adulterated, they not only reduce the nutritional value of the product but also leads to ailments and health hazards. That is why it is important for food businesses to follow the food safety guidelines laid down by FSSAI. 

In this article, we will be looking at how to file a consumer complaint against the adulteration of food. 

What is adulterated food? 

As per Section 2(A) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, any food item may be regarded as adulterated if:

  • It houses any product that can cause injury to the user’s health
  • It is processed such that it affects the user’s health adversely
  • A cheaper substitute has been added to it, which adversely affects the user’s health
  • Any product used for its manufacture has been abstracted to adversely affect the user, compromising its quality

In short, any substance in solid, liquid or gaseous form which when mixed with the food product, or when removed from the product, makes the final product unhealthy or injurious to a user’s health is regarded to be adulterated food.

Objectives of Food Safety

  • Protection from harmful food products
  • Prohibition of the business of sub-standard provisions
  • Protection of consumer interest
  • Prevention of deceitful practices related to food

If any person manufactures for sale, stores, imports for sale or distributes any article of food which is adulterated or misbranded, he is liable under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act, 1954 to be punished with imprisonment and fined.

File Your Consumer Complaint

Prevention of food adulteration

As per the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the subsequent punishments are forced upon people who perpetrate acts that result in food contamination. 

  1. Any individual who sells any material which is not as per the consumer’s demanded or provision is liable to pay a maximum fine of 5 lakh rupees if found guilty.
  2. Anyone who manufactures, stores, sells, distributes or imports any sub-standard food item, any food item which contains decayed matter, any item stored in unhygienic conditions is liable to pay a penalty.
  3. Anyone who manufactures, stores, distributes or imports any misbranded food-related product against the prerequisites stated by the Act, might be fined up to 3 lakh rupees.
  4. Any person who issues a misguided advertisement falsely representing food quality or provides consumer’s false guarantees might have to pay up to 10 lakh rupees.
  5. If anyone distributes a non-severe adulterant, they may be fined up to 1 lakh rupees, but if the adulterant is harmful to health, the fine may rise to 10 lakh rupees.
  6. Whoever violates any law stated in the Act may be asked to pay a fine up to 2 lakh rupees.

Frequently occurring problems 

  • Presence of worms, insects, dust particles or fungus in foods and beverages
  • Adulteration of dairy products such as ghee and milk
  • Adulteration of spices or spice powders
  • Sale of expired packaged food

Issues a consumer can complain against

  • Sale of expired food items 
  • Dust, insects, worms or fungus on food
  • Any form of adulteration
  • Incorrect packing
  • Incomplete/ insufficient/improper information on food label 
  • Misleading commercials
  • No address of maker/ marketer
  • No list of harmful ingredients like MSG 
  • Lack of warnings 

How to file a complaint? 

If someone gets to know or sees a company, hotel or individual taking part, assisting or perpetrating food contamination, they may file a complaint against

  • Manufacturer/ Restaurant owner/ Shopkeeper/Employer
  • Local Health Authority/ Food Safety Authority’s district commissioner
  • Consumer Forum

The Consumer Forum may be approached at any of the three levels: district level, state level or the national level. The complaints which are registered this way will have original jurisdiction at district levels and further appellate court at a state or federal level.

Consumers can contact the FSSAI through an online platform called the ‘Food Safety Voice’. This platform gives the people the right to register complaints regarding adulterated, substandard or unsafe food, and poor labelling or misleading ads associated with food products.

  1. You can also file an online complaint via this website.
  2. Or you can file a complaint using the Food Connect app, which may be downloaded from the Google Play Store.
  3. Once you are on the website or app, choose the right category: Packaged Food or Premises
  4. Identify the issue
  5. Describe the issue with relevant pictures
  6. Submit the complaint 

For misleading ads, you can file a complaint to the Advertising Standards Council of India. To do so,

  1. Go here
  2. Fill the required details
  3. Add a description and a video as proof
  4. Submit the complaint

Food Safety Connect

This program has been launched to make consumers aware that food safety is their right, and that they must protect it. This effort by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India helps consumers submit complaints regarding the violation of food safety online. Through this initiative, people can complain about everything from an expired product being sold, to finding food products in compromising packaging. They may file complaints by attaching photos to serve as further proof.

Above 60% of the premature deaths that occur in India, are in some way related to food adulteration.  Most people, especially in rural areas, are unaware that food is sometimes mixed with harmful chemicals, and they unknowingly consume such food, leading to ill health and in some cases, death. Nowadays, the government is taking active steps to raise awareness about such issues, to prevent such mishaps. By following the good practices mentioned above, let us all strive to avoid food adulteration and hence reduce ill-health and deaths due to the same.