India considers tougher sentences for food fraud

The Law Commission of India has proposed life sentences for food fraudsters who injure or kill consumers.

The tougher penalties would be for criminals who intentionally sell adulterated and harmful food or beverage products, and if implemented would represent a significant hike in penalties, reports The Hindu newspaper.

At the moment, people found guilty of such activities often escape with a small fine or – rarely – a prison sentence up to a maximum six months. The current law dates back to the colonial-era Indian Penal Code of 1860 and is afflicted by "incoherency", says the LCI.

As well as life imprisonment, the proposed reforms – detailed in the LCI's Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2017 (Provisions dealing with Food Adulteration) – would also see stricter fines up to 1m rupees (around $15,000). The Commission's recommendations have been forwarded to the government for consideration.

Food fraud has become a hot topic in India in the wake of a series of incidents, including the adulteration of milk with hazardous substances. A 2012 study by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) found that more than two-thirds of Indian milk was adulterated with salt, detergent and other substances.

The decision to update the law stemmed from "the menace of growing sales of adulterated and synthetic milk in different parts of the country and the inability of concerned State Governments and the Union to take effective measures for combating the adulteration," says the amendment.

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