The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in its soon-to-be released report has blamed the ministry of health and family welfare for acting in haste and causing panic amongst the public by issuing the draft notification for revision of pesticides limit in beverages. It has also questioned the ministry for not involving the Central Committee on Food Standards (CCFS), a statutory committee, for laying down the standards for food items.
“The plea taken by the ministry that it had issued the said notification because the matter was of public importance is not at all acceptable by the committee. It is rather highly disturbing that the ministry acted in such haste that it did not even ponder that it should not issue the draft notification when the JPC was going to be constituted,” the JPC report has said.
The panel has also said that the committee had to intervene to extend the time for inviting objections to the draft notification to 90 days as against only 30 days which were allowed by the ministry.
“The draft notification naturally resulted in raising fingers of suspicion on the feasibility and practicability of implementing these standards from not only the chambers of industry representing the manufacturers of the soft drinks, fruit juices, and other ready-to-serve beverages but also from the other govt agencies viz ministry of food processing, APEDA and CFTRI, etc,” it further noted.
The draft notification in question was issued by the ministry of health and family welfare on August 26, 2003 and laid standards to regulate the presence of poisonous metal and pesticide residues in beverages, including soft drinks. The notification used the term ‘beverages’ for the following — carbonated water, fruits and vegetable juices, fruit syrup, fruit squash, fruit beverages or fruit drink, soft drink concentrates (after dilution as per declaration) and beverages of all kinds.