Last November, FSSAI had been deeply concerned about the spate in false and malicious videos in various print and social media platforms regarding the safety and quality of food available in the country. Seeing this as a negative trend the CEO. FSSAI, Pawan Agarwal had said that such news created fear amongst the public at large and eroded their confidence in the food control systems of the country. FSSAI had also requested the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) to sensitize social media platforms about the implications of such false propaganda and to put in place a system for tracking fake messages so that the perpetrators could be halted in their tracks and brought to book.
The government has now written to Google and Facebook to take down the ‘false and malicious’ videos and other content that spreads misinformation regarding safety and quality of food in India, saying that the ‘fake’ information erodes public’s confidence in institutions that have the responsibility to ensure food safety and quality. The IT Ministry has directed the global internet platforms to immediately remove such content and block the accounts of people who are uploading the malicious and fake videos. The Ministry has further requested the companies to have in place a system that would prevent individuals from uploading such videos, imagery or text that contain fake content.
The MeitY has quoted specific instances which had been pointed out by the FSSAI like the ones that had created scare among the public about plastic eggs, plastic rice and melamine in milk. One specific fake video which went viral on social media related to the presence of melamine in milk, wherein it was maliciously projected that FSSAI had given permission for use of melamine in the milk. It must be noted that the use of melamine either as an ingredient or as an additive is not permitted in any food under the FSSAI regulations in India. Maximum limits for the presence of melamine in food, including milk, have been established under the food regulations to address the incidental presence of melamine as a contaminant. The standard for maximum limits of melamine in food, in India, is at par with international standards and is based on a proper risk assessment with respect to consumer health and safety.
FSSAI had said that the false content on food safety had created fear in the minds of the public and the false propaganda is neither good for citizens nor for the food manufacturers. They had said that such malicious propaganda affects global trust in India’s food system and food businesses and potentially has far-reaching public health, social and trade implications. FSSAI had also suggested that the internet platforms appoint a nodal officer so that it could directly take up such issues with them for quick remedial action.