The world is going haywire since the time Covid-19 has conquered almost every part of it. Along with the dooming phase that we have been witnessing in these 2 years, we have also come across certain incidents through news or social media which have left people all over the world aghast and astounded. One of such incidents took place with a woman in the Philippines. The situation that took place was such that the woman had ordered a chicken meal for her son and upon delivery of her order, she received a fried towel [i]. Yes, you read that right. A fried towel!
Such an incident isn’t the only one that shook the world. A lot of other similar incidents have taken place in the past as well which have really become an eye-opener for the world. Last year in India, one of such incidents took place wherein a very reputed restaurant in a posh locality in the national capital was termed as a ‘perpetrator’ and was highly criticized for its service and raised questions on the service that they had been rendering for so many years. A man had ordered a very famous South Indian Dish called ‘Dosa Sambhar’ and was delivered the same along with a dead lizard within the dish [ii].
Such things leave a big blot on the standards of food safety. Here in India, many of such cases are not even reported and things go on happening again and again. The cases of food poisoning and food adulteration have grown more rapidly in the past decade. This has taken a toll on the health of a lot of people and is a great cause of concern.
In India, food adulteration is governed by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. This Act basically mentions the criteria for any food material to considered adulterated.
There is also a standard regulating body of every food material getting manufactured called FSSAI (Food Safety and Security Authority of India) which has been established by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare under the Food Safety and Security Act, 2006, whose functions include packing, storage, distribution, import and sale to ensure the good quality of food. This Act was enforced to set up a single food quality platform for various food products [iii].
The question remains, what is the solution to these ongoing problems between restaurants and customers, and what remedy can people as consumers seek for? With such acts and regulations existing in India, what would you do if you order a meal to eat and are delivered with a fried towel or a lizard into your meal?
The solutions to this are as follows:
- You can register an FIR against the restaurant wherein you can hold them accountable under IPC Section 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) which is defined as, “Whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.”
- You can hold the restaurant accountable under IPC Section 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) which is defined as, “Whoever does any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to two hundred and fifty rupees, or with both.
- You can also hold the restaurant accountable under Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Consumer Forums have been set up at District, State, and Central Levels. If a consumer faces any of the above-mentioned situations in any of the restaurants, he/she can file a complaint in the respective forum depending on the jurisdiction[iv].
- You can report to the Local Health Authority of District or Commissioner of Food Safety of the State/ Union Territory.
- You can also seek remedy under the Law of Torts. There is a very famous common law case of Donoghue v. Stevenson, also known as the ginger bottle case, which laid down the foundation of the provision “duty of care”, wherein the House of Lords stated that the manufacturer owes a duty of care against the Consumer, to which, the manufacturer would be held negligent if there is a violation of his duty. This case became the core for providing assistance to people who have been harmed by adulteration. Most common law countries, including India, follow this universal precedent. As a result, consumers have a tort law remedy available to them through the civil courts.
Hence, one should know about such legal remedies because a consumer can face such a thing in any part of the country and he/she should be aware of the first resort that they should be going for.
[i] Sanya Jain, Viral Video: Woman Orders Chicken, Receives Fried Towel Instead, NDTV (June 8, 2021, 2:00 PM), https://www.ndtv.com/offbeat/viral-video-woman-orders-chicken-receives-fried-towel-instead-2458054
[ii] Mukesh Singh Sengar, “Half Of It Missing”: Man Finds Lizard In Sambar At Top Delhi Restaurant, NDTV (June 8, 2021, 2:00 PM) https://www.ndtv.com/delhi-news/delhi-man-finds-lizard-in-sambhar-at-top-delhi-restaurant-half-of-it-missing-2273029.
[iii] Samridhi Srivastava, What are the laws in India against adulteration of food?, LAW TIMES JOURNAL (June 8., 2021, 2:00 PM) https://lawtimesjournal.in/what-are-the-laws-in-india-against-adulteration-of-food/.
[iv] Rachel Thomas, What to do if food poisoning happens with hotel food?, LAW TIMES JOURNAL (June 8., 2021, 2:00 PM), https://lawtimesjournal.in/what-to-do-if-food-poisoning-happens-with-hotel-food/ .
Written by: Dhruv Choubey, School of Law, JEMTEC, Noida