Consumer has the fundamental right to know whether the food products, cosmetics and drugs available for human consumption are of non-vegetarian or vegetarian origin

The consumer has the fundamental right to know whether the food products, cosmetics and drugs available for human consumption are of non-vegetarian or vegetarian

Know more about labelling as to vegetarian / non-vegetarian symbol/ ingredients on Food items, drugs and cosmetics packages,

You may please refer the below mentioned judgement link for eloborate discussion/debate

Excerpts from the judgement – Indian Soaps And Toiletries Makers Association And Ors. Vs. Ozair Husain And Ors.[Supreme][Dated:March 7, 2013]

18. A citizen has the right to expression and receive information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. That right is derived from freedom of speech and expression comprised in the Article. The freedom of speech and expression includes the right to receive information. [Refer : The State of U.P. vs. Raj Narain and others l, (1975) 4 SCC 428; Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India and others vs. Cricket Association of Bengal and others, (1995) 2 SCC 161; P.V. Narasimha Rao vs. State (CBI/SPE), (1998) 4 SCC 626)]. But such right can be limited by reasonable restrictions under the law made for the purpose mentioned in the Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

19. It is imperative for the State to ensure the availability of the right to the citizens to receive information. But such information can be given to the extent it is available and possible, without affecting the fundamental right of others.

20. In the present case the appellant-Union of India had taken a plea that information relating to the ingredients of drug particularly those ingredients of non-vegetarian origin should not be given in the interest of general public. A specific plea has been taken that it is not possible to distinguish the drugs whether these are life saving or otherwise.

21. In the given circumstances the condition of a patient may be such that a drug which is ordinarily not treated as a life saving drug may be essential to save the life. In such a case when drug becomes a life saving drug, it may not be desirable for the patient or his attendant to know the origin of the ingredients of the drug i.e. whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Such option cannot be left on the patient or his attendant if required to save the life or eradicate a disease.

22. The information about the origin of the ingredients of a drug or cosmetic, if claimed as a matter of right, a vegetarian can also claim information about the origin of a vegetarian ingredient, depending upon his food habit.

23. Food habit in India varies from person to person and place to place. Religion also plays a vital role in making such habit. Those who follow Jainism are vegetarian but many of them do not eat some of the vegetarian food such as potato, carrot, onion, garlic etc. which are grown below the earth. Majority of Indians treat honey and lactose (milk derived sugar) as vegetarian but scientists treat them as non-vegetarian products.

Amongst the non-vegetarians a number of persons are eggetarian i.e. those who only take one non-vegetarian product egg. They do not eat other non-vegetarian food like animal, fish or birds. There are number of persons who treat egg as vegetarian food. Even amongst non-vegetarians, a large number of persons do not take beef or ham/pork because of religious belief. Many of the non-vegetarians do not eat snakes, insects, frog or bird. In individual case, the Central Government may feel difficulty in specifying the origin of a vegetarian or non-vegetarian ingredient, if a person wants to know the definite origin of such vegetarian or non-vegetarian ingredient on the basis of his food habit.

a perfume is component of cosmetic preparation. The perfumes are proprietary formula by itself and are mixture of several ingredients. Each ingredient of perfume could be synthetic, natural or animal in origin. Example Musk perfume is trade secret composition. It may contain any number of ingredients coming from any source as synthetic, natural or animal origin. Generally perfume contains 10-100 different ingredients.

6) All of these ingredients are purified several times to reach the acceptable form as required by INCI requirements. At this stage it is at least 4th or 10th step of purification, wherein original starting material can not be traced back to even ppb level. Example Fatty acid based surfactants from plant origin or purely synthetic or animal origin.

7) In case of food and drug related formulae, there is list of limited excipients or additives. In case of drug formulae, mostly the excipients are only a few and are published monographs in official pharmacopoeia. In case of food, the formulae are simple and contain very few ingredients being declared on the pack. So the origin is very easy to verify.

8) Cosmetic formulae are far more complex to drug formulae. The source of thousands of ingredients being used in multiples of combination in the cosmetic formulae, make the task extremely difficult to check and certify the origin of ingredients used.

24. The Drugs and Cosmetics Rules can be amended by the Central Government after taking into consideration any suggestion which the Drugs Technical Advisory Board may make in relation to the amendments of the said Rules. Earlier on a reference the Drugs Technical Advisory Board has already opined that the labelling of drugs as vegetarian or non-vegetarian or from animal sources is not desirable and such proposal was not accepted.

Courts cannot issue any direction to the Parliament or to the State legislature to enact a particular kind of law. It is the Central Government which in consultation with the Drug Technical Advisory Board is empowered to decide whether any amendment is to be made in the relevant Rules showing the ingredients of vegetarian or non-vegetarian origin or to provide a symbol. In fact the issue in question was deliberated by the Central Government when such matter was referred to the Drug Technical Advisory Board which in its 48th Meeting on 8th July, 1999 rejected such suggestion.


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