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Packaged food should carry expiry date: Consumer body

24,December, 2015

NEW DELHI: The country’s apex consumer commission is in favour of changing the labeling norm of packaged food items and also wants the labeling to be simple for consumers to understand so that they can make an informed choice. To end any confusion in the minds of consumers, chief of the National Consumer Disputes Resolution Commission (NCRDC), has asked the food regulator to see whether the tag of "best before use" on products can be replaced with information on "expiry date".

While speaking at the consumer awareness day on Tuesday, Food Safety and Standards Regulatory Authority of India (FSSAI) chairman Ashish Bahuguna said consumers get influenced by "dazzling" advertisements and rarely look at the labels while buying products except going beyond their expiry date. "Even educated consumers do not read the label while purchasing food items…There is no awareness to check contents of the label."

Supporting the need to end confusion on issues to do with labeling, NCRDC president Justice D K Jain said safe and healthy food is a constitutional mandate and there have to be stringent provisions to check food adulteration. He cited how importers of packaged food items put a new barcode on the imported products.

On the issue of many products mentioning the ‘best before use’ tag, Jain said, "What does it mean? Is it fit for human consumption after six months? We don’t know. Consumers are confused. What is sacrosanct about Best Before? Why not have only ‘expiry date’ on label?" he asked.

Justice Jain also highlighted how big companies are now focusing more on rural areas for greater sales and are depending more on advertisements to "exploit" the new market. Stating that government has a huge job to educate the rural consumers, he also highlighted how big companies are into rampant unfair trade practices. For example, clinical trials of many of the products such as toothpaste and fairness cream are being done abroad in different conditions though they will eventually be sold in India.

The NCRDC chief pointed out how the rural market is flooded with duplicate products often with telltale wrong spellings. "We have to have better enforcement mechanism to check such malpractices," he said.

Consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan also supported this stating that awareness about consumer rights has to be a mass movement across the country.

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