Supermarkets often sell expired or about to expire food at cheaper prices. They sometimes even set up buy-one-get-one offers to clear such stock and minimize their loss.
Have you ever thought of taking a legal action against them? They are, definitely, going to beg you to settle and let it once you realize the true power of law in your hand.
Over the last few years, we often heard terms like the “consumer’s economy” or the “consumer is king” but that really doesn’t stand true.
We’ll delve deeper into the legal implications of the same and even take a quick dive into the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘expiry date’ both legally and practically.
Table of Contents
- Understanding the term ‘best before’ and ‘use by’
- Expiry Date
- Best Before
- Can products be sold after their expiry date?
- Can products be sold past the best before date
- Remedies available to consumers
- A possible solution for Supermarkets
Quite often terms like ‘best before’, ‘use by’ and ‘expiry date’ are considered synonyms and commonly used interchangeably.
An expiry date, or what is often called a ‘use by date’ is the date which a food product should not be consumed after. Whilst a product might smell or taste fine after this date it may still be unsafe to eat. Products that include meat or dairy are some of the most common examples of products that require an expiry date. It is not necessarily true for medicines and supplements, so, we will only discuss food throughout this post.
A best before date is an indicator of when the food may start to deteriorate in quality. Products purchased after this date may still be safe to eat if they’ve been stored appropriately and remain unopened. Consumers can determine whether a product is safe to consume after its best before date by examining its smell and appearance. If the product appears to be of the same or similar quality to what one would expect then it may be safe to eat. Ultimately, consumers should use their own discretion when deciding whether to consume such goods.
In India, food products past their expiry date or ‘used by’ date cannot be sold legally as such products pose a substantial health risk to the consumer and thus there is increased importance being given the proper packaging and labeling of perishable products.
Under the legal system, primarily two main statutes deal with the sale of food unfit for consumption; the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Section 7 of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act is the primary legislation that oversees the safety standards when it comes to the sale of expired perishable food products which deals with the sale of articles of food that may be harmful to the health of the consumer. The act is even criminalized as under Section 273 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Section 273 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes the act of sale of harmful perishable food products with knowledge as an offence punishable by six months imprisonment or a fine or both.
You can lodge an FIR against them either by going to a police station, but if you think that all they are going to do is try to settle, then feel free to send a complaint to the DCP.
This is where we enter a bit of a grey area, once a product goes past it’s ‘best before’ date, the manufacturer is no longer bound to offer the same quality or freshness that the product in normal circumstances would offer. Following the word of the law, it is per se not illegal to sell products past their ‘best before’ guidelines however unabashed promotion and discounts of such products aren’t ethical practice.
Further, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has defined guidelines for “Best Before” and “Use By Date” labels of food products. Also, it has clearly delineated how to label this information on packaged food products.
Remedies available to consumers
Whenever any person comes to know or sees any other person committing food adulteration, the consumer can file his complaint at;
Tier 1: to the shopkeeper/manufacturer
Tier 2: Local Health Authority of India or district commissioner of the Food Safety Authority of the State/ Union Territory
Contact details – https://www.fssai.gov.in/cms/commissioners-of-food-safety.php
Tier 3: Consumer Forum
Consumer forum is present at three levels, namely at the district level, state level and the national level. The complaints have the original jurisdiction at the district level and appellate jurisdiction at the state and the national level.
Consumers can also connect to FSSAI (The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) which is a statutory body to supervise the rules and regulations which are stated in the Food Safety and Standards Act. recently launched an online platform called the ‘Food Safety Voice’ where consumers can register their complaints and food safety issues about adulterated food, sub-standard food, unsafe food, labeling defects in food and misleading advertisements related to various food products.
A possible solution for Supermarkets
Sometimes in order to get rid of excess inventory, products with proper dates and MRPs are sold which is a violation of Rule 5 thereby inviting a fine Civil Supplies Commissioner of the state.
Reading between the lines of “Best By,” “Best if Sold By,” and “For Full Flavor Use By” can be hard to decipher. Each of these phrases has different implications and origins. Most of them are quality warnings, not safety warnings.
Food adulteration in today’s world is taking place on a large scale. A lot of people are being affected by it, many are dying also. Although the FSSAI is there to act as a statutory body to look after that the people are adhered to the rules and regulations prescribed in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 but are there proper implications of the laws mentioned in the act? Are the people aware of the consequences of the adulterated food? Like these, many questions arise in the mind of the reader so stop those frequent questions coming to your head, we need to be more careful now. Whatever food we eat we should complete knowledge of the same. And also direct those people who cannot study or cannot understand things, In this way, we will help people to know what food is unsafe for them or will cause injury to them.