The Maharashtra government Thursday said it would make food adulteration a non-bailable and cognisable offence in the state punishable with life imprisonment.
While the state Legislative Assembly passed the bill making necessary amendments for this, it was yet to be cleared by the Legislative Council. Food and Civil Supplies Minister Girish Bapat informed the Legislative Council earlier in the day the government would amend the existing law to provide for life imprisonment to offenders.
Prevention of Food Adulteration (Maharashtra Amendment) Act will be tabled in the House during the current winter session, he had said.
Responding to a calling attention notice by Congress’ Bhai Jagtap, the minister said the government was aware of the consequences of food adulteration and is committed to stop it. Jagtap said milk processing companies collect milk from farmers but it turns ‘poisonous’ by the time it reaches consumers.
“Substances like detergent powder, urea, skimmed milk powder, caustic soda, glucose, refined oil, salt and starch are mixed in milk to preserve it, thereby endangering the lives of people who consume it,” he said.
People cannot detect adulteration easily and despite surprise checks by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such malpractices continue unabated, he said.
Later in the day, the Assembly passed the bill by a voice vote amid din by opposition members on Maratha and Dhangar quota issue. It amended sections 272 to 276 of the Indian Penal Code and the first schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The bill said that adulteration of milk and other food products, as well as medicines, is a serious threat to people’s health. Until now, the offences are punishable with imprisonment up to six months or fine which may extend to Rs one thousand or both, it said.
As the offences were non-cognisable and bailable, the police, food safety officers and drug inspectors could not arrest the accused easily which affected probe, it said, explaining the rationale behind the amendment. Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have passed similar legislations. The bill is yet to be tabled before the Legislative Council.