The state government defended its one year ban on the manufacture and sale of gutka and paan masala by saying that these two items came under the ‘food’ category. They told the Bombay High Court in an affidavit that the two products come under the category of ‘food’ under the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006.
Five gutkha manufacturers had challenged the state government’s notification of July 19 banning the manufacture, distribution, storage and sale of gutkha and paan masala.
The manufacturers said that since gutkha contained 6-8 % tobacco and had no nutritional value couldn’t be termed under the food category. It therefore wasn’t under the purview of the FSSA and should have come under the Tobacco Act, 2003.
The affidavit by Advocate General D J Khambata and government pleader D A Nalavade stated that manufacturers, while insisting that the central legislation would cover the sale of gutka and paan masala, “have ignored the mandate of a later special statute. The FSSA, also enacted by the Centre, has an overriding effect over all other laws”.
The affidavit filed by Kamlesh Sankhe, Joint Commissioner of Police (Food), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cited a nation-wide study by the Global Adult Tobacco Survey in 2009-10 that indicated that there were 27.49 crore gutkha and paan masala addicts constituting 99.9 per cent of the surveyed population above the age of 15.
Over 1000 samples of gutkha and paan masala, when tested revealed that over 98% of them flouted the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules. It added that all the 84 samples analysed under the Food Safety and Standards Regulation, 2011 contained prohibited anti-caking agents like magnesium carbonate. “The state shall regard raising the level of nutrition and standard of living and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, it shall endeavour to prohibit consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health,” Sankhe stated.
Seven states have banned the manufacture and sale of gutka and paan masala.