The Society for Awareness of Civil Rights, a consumer organization, had brought to the attention of the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the soft drink Café Cuba does not show caffeine as an ingredient on the back of the can though the manufacturers mention “contains caffeine” on the label. This complaint resulted in the FDA compounding over 90,000 cans of Café Cuba for violating norms.
As a run up to this, the Maharashtra unit of the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) sent out notices to all soft drink manufacturers, including soft drink giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, to list caffeine as an ingredient on their packaging labels, if they are using caffeine in their soft drinks. It is mandatory for them to comply with the notice within 15 days.
Parle Agro Pvt. Ltd, the makers of Café Cuba filed a petition in the Bombay High Court following the 12 June impounding. Their lawyer pleaded that caffeine was used in Café Cuba, as flavouring and so was not required to be listed as an ingredient. FDA however, contended that caffeine “is not a flavouring agent at all”. This view was corroborated by a nutritionist, practicing in Mumbai, who said that even if products use artificial flavouring to give an essence of caffeine, the fact is that there is always some caffeine content in the flavouring and people who consume these products in large amounts are likely to get a caffeine kick.
Bombay High Court has asked FDA to release the Café Cuba cans since they have not seized the stock of any other manufacturer. However, the Court has also asked the company to change the labelling of their product to reflect its caffeine content if applicable. The Company is satisfied with the verdict as the seizure of their stock has been declared invalid. It seems that not only soft drinks but even Scotch whisky has been impounded by the FSSAI as a drive to enforce labelling requirements and huge stocks are lying in various custom warehouses.
On the contention of their lawyer, the food company further argued that other carbonated drink manufacturers also did not mention caffeine as an ingredient in their packaging labels, which prompted government lawyer to reply that notices had been sent to all aerated drink makers by FSSAI to comply with this norm. This was confirmed by an FDA official directly involved in the case.
When contacted, all PepsiCo India Spokesman said was that they had received a communication from the FSSAI regarding labelling declarations on their soft drinks Pepsi and Mountain Dew which they were examining. On the other hand Coca-Cola India Spokesman denied having received any notice from FSSAI and went on to say that they are fully compliant with the present regulations and have declared all ingredients or additives on their products as applicable.