The Delhi High Court today banned import of food additive Allura Red AC, also a colouring agent, after the country's food safety authority admitted it was a prohibited chemical.
A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul, however, questioned how the additive was being permitted to be imported according to guidelines issued by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India's (FSSAI) Chairman.
"If it is prohibited, it is prohibited. How is he (FSSAI Chairman) permitting it," the court asked the lawyer appearing for the authority.
While the FSSAI Chairman had allegedly allowed import of food items having chemicals permitted in the Codex Alimentarius - a collection of internationally recognised standards relating to foods, food production and food safety - which has not banned Allura Red, the authority in its affidavit had admitted that the additive was prohibited.
The court questioned how FSSAI is authorising labs for testing food items in general as well as imported eatables and how the jurisdiction of the laboratories is being determined.
It also expressed its dissatisfaction with the affidavit of FSSAI with respect to authorising of labs for testing food items in general and imported food articles according to FSSAI regulations.
"Proper affidavit be filed indicating compliance of the regulations and also specifying the manner of notification and area of jurisdiction of each lab," the court said and listed the matter for hearing on December 3.
FSSAI in its affidavit had said there are around 68 private accredited labs which have been tasked with testing safety of food items.
However, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner - NGO Lok Jagriti - questioned the accreditation of the labs as well as their authorisation to test food items, especially those that are imported, saying no notification to that effect has been issued by FSSAI.