Feb 15, 2022

How Does Indian Law Deal With Food Adulteration?

Sruthakeerthy Sriram

In India, we have laws to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. Food adulteration and the standards of food quality are regulated by the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. The Act regulates laws relating to food, and establishes the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.

Further, the Act provides several Regulations to specifically address issues regarding food product standards and food additives, food packaging and labelling, food sampling and analysis, organic food, alcoholic beverages etc.

Food adulteration

Adulteration refers to making something poorer in quality by adding another substance. Under our Constitution, the adulteration of foodstuffs and other items falls in the Concurrent List((Item 18, Concurrent List, Seventh Schedule, Constitution of India))1, which means that Central as well as State governments have the power to legally regulate food adulteration.

According to the Act, an ‘adulterant’((Section 3(1)(a), Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006))2 means any material that is used for making food which is:

  • Unsafe – Unsafe food refers to any food item whose substance or quality is affected such that it is injurious to health.
  • Sub-standard – Any article of food will be considered as sub-standard if it does not meet the required standards. However, sub-standard quality of food does not mean that the food is unsafe.
  • Misbranded – Misbranding of food happens when food items are sold using false claims or misrepresentation. Misbranding can also happen with regard to food packaging, or food labelling.
  • Food that contains ‘extraneous matter’ – Extraneous matter can refer to any component contained in the food or something that is added to the food. The matter contained in the food might be transferred from raw materials, packaging materials or process systems used for food manufacture. However, extraneous matter does not result in the food becoming unsafe.

The role of authorities

The Food Safety Officer is allowed to enter and inspect any place where any adulterant is manufactured or kept. If any adulterant is found with a food manufacturer or distributor, it can be seized by the Officer and a sample of the adulterant can be submitted for analysis to a Food Analyst. The manufacturer/distributor from whom the adulterant is seized has to prove that he was not going to use the adulterant for purposes of adulteration.((Section 38, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006))3


Possessing an Adulterant

You can be punished for importing or manufacturing an adulterant for sale. The law also punishes people who store or sell any adulterant. If the adulterant is not injurious to health, the penalty is up to two lakh rupees, and if the adulterant is injurious to health, the penalty can be up to ten lakh rupees.((Section 57, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006))4

With the intention of selling a food or drink item, if a person adulterates the item making it harmful for consumption, he can be punished with imprisonment of up to six months, and/or a fine of up to one thousand rupees.((Section 272, Indian Penal Code, 1860))5

Unsafe food

If you sell or manufacture unsafe food for sale, or if you store or import unsafe food for human consumption, you can be punished. If the unsafe food causes someone’s death, the punishment is imprisonment for at least seven years which may extend to life imprisonment, along with a fine of at least ten lakh rupees.((Section 59, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006[))6

Sub-standard food

The law provides punishment for people who sell or manufacture sub-standard food for sale, and people who store or import sub-standard food for human consumption. The penalty may be up to five lakh rupees.((Section 51, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006))7

Misbranded food

You can be punished if you sell or manufacture misbranded food for sale, or if you store or import misbranded food for human consumption. The penalty may be up to three lakh rupees.((Section 52, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006[9] Section 54, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006))8

Food that contains extraneous matter

The law provides punishment for people who sell, manufacture (for sale), store or import any food article containing extraneous matter for human consumption. The penalty may be up to one lakh rupees.((Section 54, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006))9

Complaining against food adulteration

The Food Safety and Standards Authority has established a system to manage the food safety concerns expressed by citizens. Towards securing National Food Safety, the Authority has set up a portal called ‘Food Safety Connect’, where you can share your concerns regarding food safety violations. Apart from this, the portal is a means for you to know your food safety rights, track the license/registration certificates of Food Business Operators, and view related articles/videos on food safety.

If you have a complaint about adulterated food, you can share your concern on the portal here.

If you have any more questions on the law relating to food adulteration, Ask Nyaaya.

Have a question you want to ask our legal experts?

Related Guest Blogs

February 15 2022

Buying Organic Food in India? Here’s What You Need to Know

  Recent years have seen a fast-growing trend in adopting a healthier lifestyle. With this, also came a widely shared enthusiasm for the consumption of organic foods. But do you know what makes food or produce organic? How do you distinguish them from those that are not? Have you also wondered if these organic products […]
Read More >

February 14 2022

Food Safety: A Collective Responsibility

What is food safety? Food is the basis for our health and well-being. We often assume that food is safe, but in a globalised world, food is grown, processed, stored and handled by a large network of people before it is consumed by us. In other words, there are lengthy food chains from farm to […]
Read More >

February 10 2022

What are the Rights of a Consumer in India?

  Industrial development across Indian markets has resulted in the influx of various consumer goods. The industries today focus on catering to the diverse needs of Indian customers and cover a variety of goods and services like banking, finance, transportation, construction, entertainment, utilities etc. While the consumers are at the top of the vendors’ priority, […]
Read More >