The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has been asked by the Supreme Court to file "records" of the proceedings of its various panels, set up on apex court's order, passed during hearing of a plea on harmful effects of chemicals and toxins in carbonated drinks.
"Produce records. Put up for hearing on December 3," a bench of justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said.
The court gave its direction after advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Centre For Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), alleged that instead of an expert panel, another FSSAI panel on labelling and claims/ advertisement considered the grievance of additives in carbonated drinks.
"It should have been done by the expert committee which could have considered the issue of additives in carbonated beverages. The issue, however, was considered by a technical committee of FSSAI that is Scientific Panel on Labelling and Claims /Advertisement...
"It seems that this report was given by the cola industry people and an assistant director of FSSAI has simply submitted it," Bhushan alleged and sought a direction to FSSAI to submit the minutes of its various meetings on the issue.
The apex court had asked FSSAI on February 8, 2011 to set up independent scientific panels to examine harmful effects of chemicals in carbonated beverages.
FSSAI panel later passed an order on September 12 after examining various ingredients of carbonated beverages such as artificial sweetener, phosphoric, malic and citirc acid, carbon dioxide, colouring agents, benzoic acid and caffeine.
It said in its order that these ingredients, under prescribed limits, would pose no health hazards. FSSAI's Scientific Panel On Labelling and Claims / Advertisement, in its order, said, "The expert group reviewed the scientific studies and FSS Regulations, 2011 and confirmed the following:
"All ingredients mentioned above are within the levels as prescribed in the FSS Regulations, 2011 as per the 'Analytical Data on Carbonated Beverages', produced by FRSL Ghaziabad.
"Based on updated scientific reviews, if these ingredients are consumed within the prescribed levels, no health hazard would be caused to humans."
Earlier, senior advocate K Venugopal, appearing for FSSAI, said the PIL, which was filed in 2004, be disposed of as all the reliefs claimed by CPIL have been given.
He said the Food Safety and Standards Act, a comprehensive legislation, came into effect subsequently in 2006 and it took care of all the issues raised in the plea.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) also said its study concluded that no health hazard would be caused if the ingredients are within prescribed limits.
The PIL, however, had alleged that the ingredients used in carbonated drinks have "serious deleterious effects on human health" and no action has been taken to test and assess the risk posed by such beverages.
It had also sought the constitution of a committee to evaluate harmful effects of soft drinks and a proper label, giving details of ingredients, be affixed on them. It had also sought to regulate "misleading" advertisements targeting children.