On December 19, the Bombay High Court directed the food and drug administration (FDA) to release 39 batches of ‘Kaccha Mango Bite’ candy to the producer, Parle Biscuits, a unit of Parle Products by February 1. It also directed release of seized lactic acid.
In October, the Maharashtra unit of FDA had asked the manufacturer to recall from the marketplace the entire stock, saying it was “unsafe”, after raids by officials of the Konkan division of FDA at Raigadh and Bhiwandi, where finished goods and ingredients of Rs 2 crore were seized.
“At Parle, all our products go through stringent quality norms be it the ingredients, processes, packaging material etc. Parle has always placed its consumers first, and will continue to follow this philosophy in future as well,” said a Parle spokesperson on the development.
FDA officials had alleged that the company was using buffered lactic acid, an ingredient, which is not permitted under the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006, in Mango Bite, hence the decision to order a recall of the product.
Following this, Parle Biscuits had filed a petition before the Bombay High Court. The company had then said that lactic acid is safe for human consumption and that it is widely used in several items including bread, processed cheese, milk powder, tomato ketchup, squashes, garlic, onion and ginger paste.
The court had stated that the law was silent on the lactic acid, and FDA had never initiated action against the manufacturers of these products. “The products in dispute have been manufactured and sold since 2004. This is the first time action has been taken,” Parle’s lawyer, senior counsel Virag Tulzapurkar argued.
Additional government pleader Sandeep Shinde stated that of the 48 seized batches, only nine batches contained colour beyond permissible limit. The division bench headed by Justice S J Vazifdar pointed out that FSS Act does not mention lactic acid as a banned substance.
Further, the court asked why no action was taken against other manufacturers who use lactic acid. “It is indeed curious that authorities have not taken any action against other manufacturers. Even after taking action against petitioners, similar action has not been taken against any of the other manufacturers,” the court said.
FDA had not indicated if it intended to take action against other manufacturers even now, the judges said.
Interestingly, this was not the first time when Parle Products has been asked to recall Mango Bite. In 2009 and 2010, the company, which also ranks among the largest biscuit makers in the country, was asked to take the product off shop shelves because it was using colour that was not permitted under the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006.
As per industry estimates, the candy market in India is estimated to be around Rs 3,500 crore in size. Of this, about 70 per cent is sugar candy, and the remaining 30 per cent is chocolate candy. Besides Parle, some of the other key candy or confectionary players include Perfetti Van Melle, ITC, Nestle, Ravalgaon, Candico, Cadbury and Lotte.