In a relief to confectionery major Parle Biscuits Private Ltd, the Bombay High Court has directed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release 39 batches of the company's 'Kaccha Mango Bite' candy, seized for containing lactic acid.
The court pointed out that the law was silent on the lactic acid, and FDA had not taken action in similar cases.
FDA had raided Parle's factories in Nashik and Raigad in October and seized candies worth Rs 2.36 crore. Terming them as unsafe, FDA had said they contained lactic acid, which was a violation of Food Safety and Standards Act, and a colour beyond the permissible limit.
Parle then moved the High Court. The company said lactic acid is widely used in the production of various foods including curd, paneer, bread, milk powder, ketchup, garlic paste, etc, and FDA had never initiated action against the manufacturers of these products.
"The products in dispute have been manufactured and sold since 2004. This is the first time action has been taken," Parle's lawyer, senior counsel Virag Tulzapurkar argued.
Additional government pleader Sandeep Shinde submitted that of the 48 batches that were seized, only nine batches contained colour in excess. However, all of them contained lactic acid.
The division bench headed by Justice S J Vazifdar pointed out that FSS Act does not mention lactic acid as a banned substance.
Further, the court asked why no action was taken against other manufacturers who use lactic acid. "It is indeed curious that authorities have not taken any action against other manufacturers. Even after taking action against petitioners, similar action has not been taken against any of the other manufacturers," the court said.
FDA had not indicated if it intended to take action against other manufacturers even now, the judges said.
The court directed the authorities to release the seized lactic acid and 39 batches of candy by February 1.