The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that the Baddi Industrial area, Solan, Himachal Pradesh (HP) has become a manufacturing hub for spurious vitamins, syrups, and drugs in the name of food supplements by the nutraceutical companies.
“Reportedly, there are more than 100 nutraceutical companies active in the area, which have the license to produce only food products under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. Hence, these are beyond the purview of the Drug Controller General of India and the State Food Safety Department. The companies are taking advantage of the lack of coordination between the government departments,” said the NHRC.
The commission observed that the contents of the media report, if true, raise a serious issue relating to the right to life of the people due to an apparent lack of coordination and apathy on the part of the government departments.
The commission has issued notices to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Secretary, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) Chairperson, and the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) calling for a detailed report on matter within four weeks.
“The reports should include the present status of the implementation of the relevant laws to check the supply and sale of spurious drugs in the State of Himachal Pradesh by the nutraceutical companies in the name of producing vitamins and supplements etc” added the Commission.
According to the media report, five companies have been sealed, out of which three companies had licenses to produce food items and according to the law they cannot produce allopathic medicines. Till the year 2006, all the nutraceutical companies were within the ambit of the Prevention of Food
Adulteration Act, 1954 and the Food Safety Department of the State was the authority to test the samples, conduct investigations and issue the licenses but when the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 came into existence, all the powers were shifted to the central agencies.
Reportedly, the licenses of these companies are granted by the FSSAI under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which manages to visit Himachal Pradesh for checking the samples hardly once or twice a year only if any complaint is received.
“Neither the Drug Controller nor the Food Supply Department of the State can conduct tests on the samples of the drugs and inquiries against these companies,” observed the Commission.