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Delhi HC upholds FSSAI regulation to enhance statutory warning size on pan masala packages

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court upheld the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regulation, which enhanced the size of the statutory warning on Pan Masala packages to the extent of 50 per cent of the front-of-pack of the label from the erstwhile warning size of 3 millimetres on Thursday.
The bench led by acting Chief Justice Manmohan and comprising justice Tushar Rao Gedela dismissed a plea moved by the Manufacture and Traders of Pan Masala.
They passed the judgement, noting that the intention of the Food Authority in introducing the impugned regulation is that the statutory health warning statement serves as a crucial public health measure and it would be suitable that the warning statements are made highly visible so that the same is noticeable to the consumers.
Thus, the increase in the size of warning statements from 3 millimetres to 50 per cent of the front-of-pack label is an effective alternative and does not disproportionately impact the rights of the petitioners.
"Having these parameters in mind, this Court is of the opinion that the impugned regulation meets the test of proportionality," said the court.
The bench further noted that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), in its meeting held on December 6, 2018, discussed issues relating to areca nuts and formulated guidelines for their prevention and control.
The meeting was attended by experts and senior medical officials, and it was recommended that a warning label of a larger size, similar to tobacco, may be required on areca nut-containing packets. It was recommended that suitable changes be made in the labelling regulations to ensure that the pack warning is distinct and covers a substantial portion of the pack.
The court also opined that the petitioners, Pan Masala Manufacture, are not entitled to claim parity with the size of 3 millimetres for the statutory health warning on alcohol bottles being maintained by FSSAI for its Pan Masala product.
At this stage, it would be apposite to note the submission made by the FSSAI that a decision to increase the size of the statutory health warning on alcohol bottles is being actively considered by the FSSAI.
"We are also of the opinion that the petitioners claim for parity with other products, more specifically alcohol, which falls under the purview of FSSAI, is unjustified," said the court.
The court judgement came on July 9, on a plea moved by a company/licensed manufacturer and trader of Pan Masala brands, namely, Rajnigandha, Tansen, and Mastaba, seeking a declaration that Regulation 2(i) of the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Second Amendment Regulations, 2022, published on October 11, 2022, be declared as illegal and violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.
Petitioners also submitted a declaration that the impugned regulation is ultra vires the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 ('FSS Act').

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