Consumer Connect: 'Supreme Court To Act Tough Against Misleading Claims,' Says Expert

Consumer Connect: 'Supreme Court To Act Tough Against Misleading Claims,' Says Expert

The questions are answered by Adv. Shirish V. Deshpande, Chairman – Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Monday, April 29, 2024, 09:16 AM IST
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Consumer Connect | FPJ

The Supreme Court has come down heavily on Baba Ramdev for his misleading ads of Patanjali during the pandemic. But what about so many other misleading and at times totally false advertisements we see around about curing certain diseases, some energy drinks claiming unbelievable results? Who will take action against them?

Suhas Bhalerao, Kalyan

It is true that the SC has taken a very serious note of Patanajli ads on the basis of grievances made out by the Indian Medical Association (IMA). It’s also true, as you say, many such ads of misleading and false health claims, curing of diseases are seen floating around us. Fortunately, the SC has not confined itself only to Patanjali ads. During its hearing on April 23, the court observed that the issue relating to implementation of the relevant provisions of the Drugs & Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, Drugs & Cosmetics Act,1940 and the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 needs a closer examination. It is not limited to Patanjali but to all similarly placed FMCG / pharma companies.

Keeping in mind the number of misleading ads being published with little or no accountability, the SC has directed to implead even the Ministry of AYUSH, Ministries of Consumer Affairs, Information & Broadcasting and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in this PIL. Even the concerned licensing authorities in all states are also being impleaded as per the directions of the SC in order to make all of them accountable and awaken them from their slumber.

The Supreme Court has further pulled up the petitioner IMA too by observing that there are several complaints relating to the alleged unethical acts on the part of members of the IMA who are abusing the trust reposed in them and not only prescribing prohibitively expensive medicines but also recommending avoidable / unnecessary investigations for extraneous considerations. Therefore, by asking IMA to set its house in order the SC has also directed the National Medical Commission to be impleaded in this PIL. It is heartening to note that the court has rightly expanded the scope of this PIL and will try to address the menace of false and misleading advertisements and thereby protect consumers. It will be interesting to watch happens in SC on May 7.

I read press reports that Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety (CFS) found that four products of two leading Indian brands, viz MDH and Everest, contain high levels of ethylene oxide contents. The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) too has directed the recall of some of Everest’s masala products. If the products meant for export are found with harmful pesticide contents then one can only imagine what may be the state of affairs in India. Are our Indian authorities alive to this serious safety issue?

Nilima Pradhan, Kothrud, Pune

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, ethylene oxide is a Group 1 carcinogen and food regulators are supposed to take action in such matters. Enquiries made by Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) revealed that Indian Food Safety & Standards Authority (FSSAI) has already initiated investigation into this matter and I hope, very soon FSSAI will come out with a public announcement based on their investigations. It is hoped that if levels of ethylene oxide or any other harmful products are found above the permissible level from these masala products in India, the FSSAI will recall these products from the market, besides taking necessary penal action against the companies concerned.

However, according to food experts there is no need to panic since there is no immediate threat to human safety. It is prolonged consumption of such carcinogenic products that is harmful. Nonetheless, it is advisable to restrain from consuming these masala products till the FSSAI clarifies the issue. It will be also advisable to voice your concerns on the FSSAI toll free number 1800112100.

(Adv Shirish V Deshpande is the Chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat. Queries may be sent to shirish50@yahoo.com)

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