ABC of Misleading Advertisements

ABC of Misleading Advertisements

ABC of Misleading Advertisements

As early as 2002, misleading advertisements were identified as unfair trade practices and were officially recognized with the inclusion of this term in the 2002 amendment to the Consumer Protection Act 1986. Subsequently, with the repeal of the old act, the concept of misleading advertisements was further elaborated upon in the new Consumer Protection Act of 2019. Additionally, the establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Authority under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs empowered it to proactively identify such practices and address complaints from the public against businesses engaging in unfair trade practices through misleading advertisements.

Dr Prem Lata, Legal Head VOICE

Misleading Ads defined under the act is as follows- 

Section 2(28) in Consumer Protection Act, 2019

“misleading advertisement” in relation to any product or service, means an advertisement, which-(i) falsely describes such product or service; or(ii) gives a false guarantee to, or is likely to mislead the consumers as to the nature, substance, quantity or quality of such product or service; or(iii) conveys an express or implied representation which, if made by the manufacturer or seller or service provider thereof, would constitute an unfair trade practice; or(iv) deliberately conceals important information.

Why Consumers Need to Be Aware of Misleading Advertisements

Of the six fundamental consumer rights, one crucial aspect is the Right to Information, which entails being informed about the products one intends to purchase. However, when this information is distorted or enticingly deceptive, consumers are essentially stripped of their rights. Therefore, it becomes imperative for consumers to grasp the concept of misleading advertisements.

To access the complete article, please consider subscribing to the Consumer Voice magazine. The full article will be featured in the upcoming May issue.




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Soy Sauce Saga: Unveiling the Healthiest Pick!

Soy Sauce Saga: Unveiling the Healthiest Pick!

Soy Sauce Saga: Unveiling the Healthiest Pick!

Soy sauce, a dark liquid with a salty, savoury taste, has surprisingly become a staple in many Indian households. Though not traditionally used in Indian cuisine, it adds a depth of flavour to familiar dishes, particularly when preparing Chinese-inspired treats like noodles, fried rice, or Manchurian delights, and other recipes such as barbecued foods. However, is soy sauce truly the healthy addition it seems? While often praised for its potential health benefits, there’s more to this condiment than meets the eye. Many people are unaware that the thickness and colour of soy sauce are a fascinating window into its age, revealing a world of hidden complexity beneath its seemingly simple surface. In this article, we will explore soy sauce, how it is prepared, the factors impacting its healthiness, and equip you with the knowledge to choose the best option for your taste buds and health.

                                                                                                                       Richa Pande

Origins of Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is believed to be one of the oldest seasonings that humans have been using. Its origin can be traced back to prehistoric times when it was likely used to preserve food and prevent spoilage. In the sixth century, when Buddhism was introduced to Japan from China, a new vegetarian seasoning was also introduced. This paste was made from fermented beans and is considered to be the earliest version of soy sauce, replacing the previous preparation that involved fermentation with fish in Japan. During the 14th century, Japan developed its distinct culture and soy sauce underwent significant advancements, resulting in a seasoning that had an ideal balance of major flavour-enhancing proteins, amino acids, sugars, and alcohol. Back in the 1600s, the Dutch and Japanese brought it over to Europe through trading.


How is it made?

There are two different methods used to prepare soy sauce. One involves fermentation with microorganisms, while the other uses chemicals to break down the ingredients. However, the chemical method is not considered traditional or authentic, and the resulting product is believed to be of lower quality.

The traditional method of making soy sauce is a meticulous and slow process that requires patience and expertise. It involves four main ingredients – soybeans, wheat/barley, salt, and koji, which is a mold (Aspergillus oryzae). The soybeans are soaked and cooked, while the wheat is roasted and crushed. Then, the mixture is inoculated with koji spores to start the fermentation process, which can last for months or even years. During fermentation, the koji breaks down proteins and starches into umami-rich compounds. The mixture, known as moromi, is stirred regularly and the temperature is carefully controlled. After fermentation, the moromi is pressed to extract the liquid soy sauce. This can be done using traditional wooden presses or modern equipment. The raw soy sauce is then filtered, pasteurized, and sometimes further aged to develop deeper flavours. However, modern methods prioritize faster production and often involve hydrolysis, where soybeans are treated with acid or enzymes to speed up the umami development. Additives such as colour, flavourings, and preservatives are also frequently added to mimic the taste and texture of traditionally fermented soy sauce. Apart from the production process, ageing plays a crucial role in the character of soy sauce. Soy sauces that are aged traditionally, such as Japanese tamari, are darker, thicker, and have more complex flavours due to extended fermentation. Conversely, modern methods often prioritize speed, resulting in lighter, thinner products. Additionally, the modern process produces some undesirable compounds that are not present in naturally fermented soy sauce, including some carcinogens. They can also have monosodium glutamate added to them for flavour enhancement and may contain high levels of sodium due to their high added salt content.

FSSAI’s Specifications for Soy Sauce

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) plays a crucial role in ensuring public health by enforcing strict regulations for various food products, including soybean sauce. These regulations are designed to ensure consistency, quality, and safety for consumers across the country. A compliant soybean sauce must contain wholesome soybeans with completely deactivated trypsin inhibitors to ensure proper digestion. Salt and nutritive sweeteners are the foundation of the sauce, while spices and condiments are allowed to add depth and complexity to its flavour. Preservatives may be used to ensure extended shelf life and product stability, but only those approved by the FSSAI. Specific food additives may also be incorporated to enhance certain properties of the final product. The FSSAI’s regulations prioritize microbial safety and require adherence to stringent standards to ensure a shelf-stable product suitable for consumption. Apart from ensuring safety, specific characteristics define high-quality soybean sauce, such as a concentrated and flavourful product with a tangy taste and at least 1.0% total nitrogen content. Proper packaging is also mandated to preserve the product’s integrity and quality, with containers required to be well-filled and occupying at least 90% of their water capacity.

Check the labels!

While picking soy sauce from the market, one must be careful. Opt for traditionally prepared pasteurised soy sauces. They might be expensive but are better for health and taste better. Traditionally prepared gluten-free alternatives are also available in the market. If you are choosing chemically processed soy sauces, make sure you pick a brand that has low sodium content, and no added monosodium glutamate. It can be labelled as E621 on the back. Also, from the ingredient list, you can check the amount of soy in the sauce. If you plan to prepare recipes for children, pick a soy sauce that doesn’t contain Disodium inosinate i.e. E631. Pick the brand with more soy content than salt and sugar in the product. People with gluten intolerance can check if wheat/ barley was used in the preparation of this soy sauce. If wheat or barley is mentioned in the ingredient list, gluten-sensitive people must avoid it. Always prefer soy sauce packed in glass bottles over the ones packed in plastic bottles.



Brand 1- Ingredient List Glass Packaging

Brand 2- Ingredient List Glass Packaging

Brand 3- Ingredient List Glass Packaging

Brand 4- Ingredient List Glass Packaging

Brand 5- Ingredient List Glass Packaging

Brand 6- Ingredient List. Available in both Plastic and Glass Packaging

Brand 7- Ingredient List Glass Packaging

Brand 8- Ingredient List glass Packaging

Soy sauce, when left unopened, can retain its quality for a span of 2 to 3 years. However, upon exposure to air, its flavour begins to diminish. Once the bottle is opened, it’s crucial to store it properly to maintain its optimal taste. Refrigeration is key in preserving the freshness and flavour of soy sauce after opening. By keeping it chilled, you can extend its shelf life and ensure each use delivers the rich, savoury taste it’s known for.

Embrace Nutrient-Rich Variety: Make Healthy Millets a Staple on Your Plate

Embrace Nutrient-Rich Variety: Make Healthy Millets a Staple on Your Plate

Embrace Nutrient-Rich Variety: Make Healthy Millets a Staple on Your Plate

Engaging in a conversation with Ashim Sanyal, the CEO of Consumer Voice, he sheds light on the significant uptake of millets by food and beverage producers in India. Sanyal underscores the need for a cautious approach, urging the preservation of the nutritional potency of coarse cereals. He emphasizes this imperative step to safeguard against the potential disruption of our diets by the surge of heavily processed millets.

Millets belong to the family of cereals, but because of their coarse texture, they were often seen as playing a second fiddle to their rich cousins, rice and wheat. Millets are more resilient to water scarcity and can thrive in semi-arid regions, making them a sustainable choice for Indian agriculture. Millets have been in vogue since the Indus Valley civilization. They find mention in the Yajurveda too. Economic benefits of millets are obvious — they are cheaper to grow and store. These hardy crops are drought-resistant and require very less water to grow. Some can grow on their own as weeds, even in rocky terrains. Rice, in comparison, guzzles water, while wheat too needs far more water than a millet crop. Millets also don’t require expensive fertilizers and pesticides.

To promote millets in restaurants and hotels, the Ministry of Tourism is taking several steps such as establishment of millet experience centres, creating awareness on health benefits about dishes made out of millets amongst Indian and International chefs, meetings with hotel associations and hotel chains. Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) has implemented the Production Linked Incentive Scheme for Food Processing Industry for Millet-based products (PLISMBP) during 2022-23 to 2026-27 with an outlay of Rs. 800 crores.

Is nutrition content in millets in danger of being misused?

All good for this neglected produce in the Year of the Millet. However handing over a nutritious product basket ( Millets have many, many varieties ) to companies on a platter spells danger of misuse of the basic nutritional factors of millets as we have noticed classic dangerous transformation of such healthy diets into Ultra Processed Foods by brands killing all or most of the nutritional elements for enhanced taste, flavour, colour, shelf life and child attraction which will do away with the ultimate expected gains of this being a health master. That is why the most successful grains of our times are rice and wheat. They triumphed chiefly because their modern varieties are tasty; also, they can be consumed in polished, refined forms without the inconvenience of chewing on a class of indigestible carbohydrates known as fibre.

The world has always demonstrated that between taste and health, people will talk more about what is healthy and then eat what is tasty. This is bound to be exploited by the industry in case of millets too with added sugar, salt or saturated fats to suit consumers’ pallets adding to the already surging Non-Communicable Diseases. By converting them as Ultra Processed Foods, the danger levels of NCDs as unhealthy foods will mount on unsuspecting consumers that “they are having millets as healthy foods”. Millets will survive with the grand push, of course, but in a niche market as unhealthy Ultra Processed Foods.

Is the food industry adopting millets the right way?

Food and beverage producers in India are adopting millets in a big way. You can find millets in a range of products, from biscuits to beer. From packaged foods to breweries to restaurants, large companies are putting up ambitious plans to introduce millet-based packaged foods, beers and restaurant menus or boost their existing millet portfolios. Products include millet noodles, millet cookies, millet namkeen and millet pasta.

In fact, the glorification of millets as a healthy alternative to rice and wheat will inspire the broader market to corrupt these ancient grains. For instance, the readymade ragi, jowar, bajra dosa, paratha, dalia, khichdi, poha, upma or even atta, etc. of the future will be more rice and sugar than the millets itself in their Ultra Processed form. This is typically what is being done by brands now. Add a small percentage of healthy millet, load it with maida and sugar and name it superfood. Imagine a sugary juice or an aerated sugary drink with a miniscule morsel of millet will become a good food officially. Immediate examples which we will be savouring soon can be expected to be our daily bread or cornflakes or poha or pundhi or even cakes with a Front of Pack Label claims of Ragi or Jowar or Bajra Healthy – “Gluten free healthy super start of the day” claims with 5 or 6 gms by weight of the millet! After all, laboratories can produce anything to induce your taste buds.

Serve the world a health basket of millets!

Food processing companies have started incorporating millets into a wide range of products, from snacks and breakfast cereals to baked goods and ready-to-eat meals. Besides, the government has included millets in the Public Distribution System and the Mid-Day Meal Schemes in schools. No doubt our Prime Minister needs to be applauded for promoting sustainable diet and consumption globally. Besides his recognition of India’s capacity to serve the world with millet baskets will boost our exports and economy. However, we have to recognize that in this era of Non-Communicable Diseases, the corporate houses and brands have to be cautioned not to mislead the consumers with misleading claims / advertising of millet magic and make millets a truly healthy option.   

(The writer is Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Consumer VOICE. Views expressed are personal)

Banned Single-Use Plastic Products Still Flooding Indian Markets: Study Reveals Implementation Challenges

Banned Single-Use Plastic Products Still Flooding Indian Markets: Study Reveals Implementation Challenges

Banned Single-Use Plastic Products Still Flooding Indian Markets: Study Reveals Implementation Challenges

One year following India’s ban on specific single-use plastic items, a recent study conducted by Toxics Link, titled “India’s Single-Use Plastic Ban,” has discovered the prevalent use of these prohibited plastic products in five major Indian cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Guwahati, and Gwalior, notably in local stores and markets. Although certain single-use plastic products (SUPPs) were officially banned on July 1 last year, it seems that the enforcement of this ban remains largely ineffective. This evident violation casts serious doubt on India’s endeavours to reduce plastic pollution.

The worldwide production of plastic waste, totalling approximately 400 million tonnes annually, continues to pose a significant environmental challenge due to insufficient management capacity. At the core of this issue is the prevailing ‘take, make, use, and dispose’ model that characterizes the plastic economy, promoting the widespread use of SUPPs. This leads to the generation of vast quantities of non-biodegradable waste, often carelessly discarded and ultimately finding its way into landfills and oceans. Subsequently, this waste breaks down into micro- and nano-plastics, posing a grave threat to the entire ecosystem.

In an effort to address this problem, India implemented a ban on specific SUPPs nationwide from July 1, 2022, aiming to reduce the usage of products with low utility and high littering potential that harm the environment and public health. Nearly a year since the ban’s introduction, it is crucial to assess its effectiveness and understand the challenges in its implementation. This study sought to evaluate the ban’s implementation, analyse the availability of substitutes for SUPPs, and identify the obstacles to their adoption. The resulting report offers key recommendations to enhance compliance and achieve a substantial reduction in the use of SUPPs.

To evaluate the accessibility of SUPPs and their potential substitutes, surveys were conducted in five cities spanning different regions of India. Subsequently, interviews were conducted with relevant stakeholders to gain insights into the impediments hindering the transition to substitute products. The findings revealed that, of the five cities surveyed, Delhi exhibited the lowest level of compliance with the ban’s implementation, with banned SUPPs still accessible at 88% of the surveyed locations. In contrast, Bengaluru displayed the highest level of compliance, with SUPPs available at 55% of the surveyed points. Gwalior (84%), Mumbai (71%), and Guwahati (77%) also reported a substantial presence of SUPPs at the surveyed locations. This raises concerns as, nearly one year post-ban implementation, SUPPs continue to be available at more than half of the surveyed points in these five cities.

Though consumption of banned items has gone down, especially in branded sector, there is still large-scale use in many segments. The informal economy, largely, continues its SUPPs usage, especially plastic carry bags, cutlery, straws, etc. In-depth analysis of the collected data gives an insightful view and points out the SUPPs that have been affected by the ban and the ones that have suffered limited impact.

The most abundantly found SUPP in all cities was restricted carry bags (mainly plastic carry bags <120 microns); their average availability was as high as 64%. Similarly, SUPPs such as thermocol for decorations, balloon and earbuds with plastic sticks were widely available. This is highly disappointing as substitutes for these SUPPs are easily available in the market. On the positive note, use of plastic stirrers and plastic sticks in ice cream was not noted in any of the five surveyed cities. Another positive outcome is the reduction of plastic cutlery, straws, cups and plates in eating places.

The overall availability across cities for these SUPPs is below 30% while the availability of sustainable substitutes is higher. Another key point observed in the survey findings is availability of SUPPs and its correlation with location type. For example, street food (chaat) vendors, coconut sellers, vegetable vendors and small stalls in markets, weekly and wholesale markets do not comply with the ban in all five cities, but formal eating places, malls and metro stations mostly obey the ban. This probably indicates that ban compliance is driven by the economics and the degree of enforcement at a location; formal or branded locations that can afford substitutes and are monitored strongly under laws have to a large extent switched to substitutes. In comparison, a street vendor or a small shopkeeper are yet to switch to substitutes as they are weakly regulated and also because of the cost of substitutes. However, small, a price margin makes a substantial difference to them. Shopkeepers/ vendors also find the availability and their access to substitutes to be a challenge.

Another important factor that decides compliance appears to be consumer behaviour; many shopkeepers say that consumers demand SUPPs.

Regulatory agencies in one of surveyed state says that for the first year of the ban, the focus has been more on larger establishments and ensuring compliance there. Also, the attempt has also been to cut off supply. The issue of livelihood is also another factor to be considered, while being not so stringent in the informal economy, but the next phase is expected to focus on that. Another state agency points out the lack of economically feasible substitutes as a key factor.

Finally, the study presented recommendations based on the findings and stakeholder inputs. First, the enforcement and monitoring process needs to be stronger and uniform across locations. For this, the study suggests that, in addition to the regulatory agency increasing its vigilance, third monitoring could be helpful. Second, the study suggests that the availability of SUPPs can be reduced only when the supply of banned products is disrupted with effective monitoring at the manufacturing level. Regular checks are recommended at the manufacturing units.

Availability of economically and functionally feasible substitutes will need market-based policy tools to incentivise production and adoption. For instance, economic incentives should be provided to substitute manufacturers — raw materials for substitutes could be made tax free or subsidies added to make production cheaper. Additionally, training and skills needed for the incubation of substitute micro-enterprises should be conducted.

Last, stakeholder engagement should be fostered and inputs from all stakeholders regarding the bottlenecks should be incorporated in the implementation process. Since customers are one of the most important stakeholders, environmental education and regular campaigns should be used to increase awareness and reinforce ban-compliant consumer behaviour. The study proposes that the penalties collected while enforcing the ban should be used to conduct regular monitoring, awareness campaigns, skill development and distribution of substitutes to SUPPs.

Though malls and metro stations show strong adherence to the ban, the study finds that shopping markets, weekly markets, and wholesale markets have major enforcement gaps. Despite their controlled environments, plastic carry bags are also frequently used on railway platforms, bus depots, and tourist spots. Furthermore, despite the availability of viable alternatives, the continued presence of SUPPs in the food business, including restaurants, food stalls, and street food vendors in all cities, raises serious concern about the effectiveness of the product ban.

“Single-use plastics play a significant role in exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis, and the study’s findings highlight significant deficiencies in the ban’s enforcement in India, particularly within the informal economy. The unrestricted use and circulation of banned single-use plastics are alarming, and their open sale on e-commerce platforms is equally concerning,” remarked Priti Banthia Mahesh, Chief Programme Coordinator at Toxics Link. She emphasized, “While alternatives are accessible in the market, it is equally important to adopt a life cycle approach to assess these substitutes before their widespread adoption.”

In Delhi, one of the surveyed cities, significant usage of banned SUPPs has been noted during the study. In a shocking finding, the study reports that 100% of the surveyed vegetable shops, and markets, including wholesale and weekly, sweet shops, bus depots, and chaat shops in Delhi are providing restricted plastic carry bags, indicating its widespread usage and possible littering. Usage of plastic carry bags was very high in other points as well, including tourist spots and small restaurants.  Disposable cups, straws, and plates, made of plastic, are available at 54%, 45%, and 43% of the points respectively, indicating a high volume of use. Thermocol for decorations, balloons, and earbuds with plastic sticks are available at almost all surveyed points in the city. The use of the banned products was seen in 100% of the food stalls and chaat vendors, coconut water sellers, grocery shops, markets, and bhandaras. Interestingly, SUPPs were absent in malls and ice cream parlours.

“It is important to recognise that while progress has been made, there is still a substantial journey ahead in curbing the prevalence of single-use plastic products in our cities. The varying levels of compliance across different locations and product types highlight the complexity of this challenge,” said Satish Sinha, Associate Director at Toxics Link. He adds, “Stakeholders must come together and build on the positive shifts observed while addressing the areas that require immediate intervention. Our goal is to cultivate a sustainable ecosystem that not only enriches our communities but also safeguards our planet.”

Key Findings

According to the survey data, SUPPs are still easily available across all five cities. Amongst the surveyed cities, Bengaluru is the most ban compliant with SUPPs in use at 55% survey points. Delhi is the least compliant city as 88% of survey points still provide SUPPs.

  • The survey data points out that the outcome of the ban is different for different SUPPs. Restricted carry bags, mostly plastic bags (<120 microns), is the most commonly available banned item — found at 64% of the total survey points.
  • Despite having substitutes in the market, products such as thermocol for decoration (74%), balloon and earbuds with plastic sticks (60% each) are also widely available.
  • The survey did not record any use of plastic stirrers and plastic sticks in ice-cream parlours across all five cities.
  • All other SUPPs are available in all cities.
  • An overall reduction in the use of plastic cutlery, cups, plates and straws is visible across eating joints in all cities. The average availability in total survey points is below 30% for these SUPPs, while availability of substitutes to these products is higher than 30% in most cities. It is also encouraging to see that around 90% of survey points used substitutes to plastic plates in nearly all five cities. However, it is also disheartening to see that more than 50% of the survey points in Delhi still use plastic cups and cutlery.
  • In the case of SUPPs such as plastic straws, cutlery and sometimes carry bags, users often drink/ eat straight from their cups and plates and shopkeepers hand out products without any carry bag. This is a positive shift that leads to a reduction in total waste generation.
  • Higher percentages of coconut water sellers, juice shops, street food (chaat) and vegetable vendors and shops in markets are not ban compliant.
  • Another commercial location that could be the potential source of SUPPs are party decoration shops. Most party decoration shops across all cities, except Bengaluru, continue to sell SUPPs.
  • Compliance is higher in locations that are strictly regulated, such as malls and metro stations. Most religious spots in all five cities are also ban compliant.

Table: Availability of different SUPPs in surveyed cities

SUP ItemBengaluruDelhiMumbaiGuwahatiGwaliorOverall
Restricted carry bags54%64%57%69%78%64.4%
Plastic cutlery12%45%21%40%30%30%
Plastic cups23%54%28%30%13%30%
Plastic plates10%43%5%7%31%19%
Plastic straws30%45%22%10%29%27%
Plastic wrapping film27%47%Not available31%8%23%
Earbuds with plastic sticks25%90%43%40%100%60%
Candy with plastic stickNot available33%67%30%17%30%
Balloon with plastic sticks22%92%100%67%20%60%
Ice-cream with plastic stickNot availableNot availableNot availableNot availableNot available0%
Thermocol for decorationsNot available100%71%100%100%74%
Plastic stirrersNot availableNot availableNot availableNot availableNot available0%
PVC banner (100 microns)25%60%67%Not Available25%35%
Plastic flagsNot availableNot availableNot available100%100%40%

*Source: Single-use plastic ban in India: A report by Toxics Link.

Crucial Approaches to enforce Ban

Enforcing a ban on single-use plastics poses a substantial challenge in India, a nation marked by diverse geographical, social, economic, and cultural landscapes. Research on a global scale underscores the necessity for a multifaceted approach when implementing such bans. Ideally, this approach should encompass a combination of legislative and non-legislative actions involving multiple stakeholders. While India’s ban on Single Use Plastic Products (SUPPs) represents an initial stride, the effectiveness of this ban hinges on several critical factors. Among them, the cost and accessibility of substitutes, public awareness and knowledge, and effective monitoring and enforcement take precedence. In the context of a diverse country like India, this endeavour becomes more arduous and requires a conscious and comprehensive strategy. Key strategies may revolve around the following considerations:

Effective monitoring and enforcement mechanisms

The difference in compliance levels across different location types and different cities is indicative of the gaps in enforcement. It is also important to note that most recognised and large brands have made the shift as larger corporations with a great degree of public visibility are monitored more closely by the enforcement agencies and are also more sensitive to damage in reputation. In comparison, smaller businesses have limited financial capabilities to adapt to legislative changes, but also have lesser monitoring. This uneven monitoring and enforcement can lead to shift in the burden, and not really reduce the problem. To ensure good governance, enforcement, and monitoring, it is important to clearly distribute and define roles and responsibilities between local and national regulatory agencies. Sustained monitoring efforts are needed, as the users tend to go back to the convenient option the moment the enforcement weakens. It is also important to use punitive measures as the prosecution of offenders will help ensure compliance to the policy and act as a deterrent for others. User fines can also be a deterrent used to discourage consumers from asking for banned SUPPs. It is important for regulatory agencies at state and national levels to keep the public updated on the progress and benefits achieved, in order to continue building consensus and demonstrate accountability. Third party evaluation in July 2022, when the single-use plastic ban came into effect, there was a flurry of activities, including regular checks by most state agencies. With the months passing by, these checks have gone down due to a lack of resources with the enforcement agencies. But, as stated above, for the ban to work well, there is a need for sustained enforcement effort. In the absence of resources at state regulatory agencies, some of these could be outsourced and institutions like civil society organisations (CSOs) and consultancy groups could play an important role in monitoring ban compliance. In these cases, it will be necessary to also provide them with certain authority to take actions against violators. Additionally, academic institutions, researchers or CSOs could be also roped in to evaluate the ban at a regular interval, in order to understand challenges or changes on ground.

Control on manufacturing

Use is only possible when there is a regular supply. And it is clear from the study that most of the banned SUPPs are still available in the market and their supply has been uninterrupted. Several measures ought to be taken to check usage and monitor vendors and consumers. But it is absolutely necessary to crack down on the manufacture of the prohibited products. Regular and random checks at manufacturing units could help curb the production of these items.

Research and Development

The lack of alternatives has been identified as a crucial barrier by most stakeholders interviewed during this study. Experts in this field have also, since the beginning of the ban, stressed the importance of availability of feasible alternatives. Ecofriendly and fit-for-purpose alternatives should provide the same or better properties of the items that are being regulated. The study findings clearly highlight that the switch has been much easier where there are feasible (both economically as well as functionally) alternatives, like in the case of cutlery or plates. But the cost difference or functionality has been a question for some products; for example, in carry bags or straws. Therefore, there is a need for further research and development to bring in substitutes that can be adopted by various stakeholders.

Support to substitutes

The cost of substitutes is one major bottleneck, especially for smaller vendors or small users. If cheap and resistant alternatives are unavailable, the ban can negatively impact the poorest segments of the population. The uptake of affordable, eco-friendly, and fit-for-purpose alternatives can be facilitated through the introduction of economic incentives (including tax rebates, research and development funds, technology incubation support and public- 79 private partnerships). For example, certain materials used to manufacture alternatives, such as sugarcane, bagasse, bamboo, paper, or corn starch, can be made tax-free. To stimulate the substitute’s eco-system through creation of micro-enterprises, training could be organised to impart knowledge on new skill-sets related to production and promotion of alternatives. When promoting the use of substitutes, the agencies need to also consider their environmental and life cycle impact. Also, the study results have also shown use of compostable bags or other SUPPs. Currently, these materials end up getting mixed with other household waste. It is vital to consider the impact of mixing these with regular waste stream and whether a separate collection mechanism is required, as many of these may have a different composting need than wet waste.

Assessing the sustainability of existing substitutes

Some research studies have pointed out that many substitutes available in the markets might not be entirely eco-friendly when assessed under Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). For example, a study has pointed out that substitutes like paper straws may contain toxic chemicals like perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which are detrimental to health. Therefore, proper research needs to be conducted to assess the sustainability and health impacts of substitutes before adopting or promoting them.

Expanding the scope

Stakeholders, particularly waste workers, have shared insights during informal discussions, highlighting the presence of non-banned single-use plastic in the waste stream. Many of these items lack recycling potential or are impractical to collect and recycle. This observation underscores the necessity to reconsider the list of banned items in the single-use plastics ban, extending its scope to encompass other low-value, high-impact SUPPs. Potential additions might include small sachets (e.g., for shampoo, ketchup), petite mineral water bottles, plastic wrapping on various products (such as cosmetics, notebooks, handwash, shampoo), cling film used on fruits and vegetables, and plastic film used in dishwasher products. Conducting a comprehensive study to identify such SUPPs and explore viable alternatives becomes imperative for future action.

Coupling bans with other policy tools

Bans can also effectively be coupled with economic instruments, like increasing taxes on materials used for problematic SUPPs, subsidies for switching to more sustainable alternatives and tax reductions on substitute materials or levies for products containing recycled materials.

Foster stakeholder engagement

The single use plastic ban in the country has affected a wide range of stakeholders from different economic and social background. Hence, to improve compliance, it is important to have a larger acceptance from the broadest range of stakeholders. Though there were some consultations held when the ban came into force, but one year down the line, it is important to revive these consultations to focus on the bottlenecks and the measures needed to improve compliance levels. And these deliberations should not be limited to large industry players, but also extend to MSME and informal groups who have been identified in this study as groups which are the large users at this point. Public consultation through online surveys could be another way of reaching out to consumers, not just for creating awareness but to also understand their reasons for shifting or not shifting to alternatives (like carry bags).

Behavioural change campaigns

Raising public awareness through environmental education is a key element when enforcing a ban like this. Evidence shows that resistance is likely to decrease if consumers are aware of the social, environmental, and economic impact. Knowledge helps individuals make informed decisions, and may encourage environmentally sustainable behaviour. Though there were numerous initiatives when the ban came into effect in July 2022, the visibility of such campaigns has since reduced. Also, the campaigns were more focused on creating awareness and not always prompting change in practice. For enhanced public acceptance and compliance with SUPP bans, behavioural change campaign, for different target audiences and economic groups need to be designed and put into action. Social and mass media can be used effectively. This needs to be a sustained effort, because changing mindsets and behaviour requires time. In addition to this, reusable bags can be distributed for free at the entrance of some location types, where the usage of plastic bags is high. Using the fund from the fines for an effort like this can be beneficial in changing people behaviour.

Fund management

The usage of banned single use plastic products invites fines at present and it is important that due consideration is given to how the revenue from this economic instrument will be used. It will be useful if these funds are managed with transparency and utilised to make the ban more effective on ground.


This article is an extract of a report on ‘Single use plastic ban in India’ by Toxics Link. For the full report, please go to-

Toxics Link is an Indian environmental research and advocacy organization set up in 1996, engaged in disseminating information to help strengthen the campaign against toxics pollution, and to provide cleaner alternatives. They also work on ground in areas of municipal, hazardous and medical waste management and food safety among others.

Understanding the Legal Aspects of Earnest Money Forfeiture in Real Estate

Understanding the Legal Aspects of Earnest Money Forfeiture in Real Estate

Understanding the Legal Aspects of Earnest Money Forfeiture in Real Estate

The practice of forfeiting earnest money in real estate transactions is a critical legal aspect that both buyers and sellers need to comprehend. This earnest money, typically a deposit made by the buyer to demonstrate their commitment to the purchase, can become a subject of contention and legal scrutiny if the deal doesn’t proceed as planned. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of the law surrounding the forfeiture of earnest money in real estate, shedding light on the regulations, rights, and responsibilities governing this aspect of property transactions through some cases. Whether you are a buyer, seller, or simply an individual interested in the intricacies of real estate transactions, this discussion will provide valuable insights into the legal framework that governs earnest money in the real estate sector.

Dr Prem Lata, Legal Head VOICE

Legal issue: What is a reasonable and justifiable amount to deduct if a home buyer cancels their booking?

  • Case- Goutam Roy V/S Avalon Projects
  • CC No 1941 of 2018, Decided on 24.01.2023 (NC)

A landmark judgement by the National Commission (NCDRC)


  • The builder and the home buyer have a signed agreement that includes a forfeiture clause. If the home buyer cancels their booking, 20% of the total basic sale price will be forfeited.
  • The question before the National Commission was as to how much deduction is reasonable and justifiable.

The National Commission, when addressing the number of Supreme Court cases on this matter, relied on Section 74 of the 1872 Contract Act. According to this section, in cases of breach of contract, actual damages must be proven to penalize the other party. In situations where a buyer cancels their booking for a flat or property, it’s noted that the property remains solely with the builder, and there is minimal loss to the builder. In light of this, the National Commission ordered a forfeiture of 10% of the total sale cost of the property.

Cases Referred:

  • Maula Bux vs Union of India 1970 SC
  • Sirdar K B Ramachandra Raj URS vs SC 2015

Legal issue: Whether there can be any forfeiture of earnest money or any money?

  • Case-Amit Gupta & Anr. Versus. M/S. Vatika Limited (National Commission)
  • Consumer Case No. 425 Of 2018

A landmark judgement National Commission (NCDRC)


The complainants received the draft of the Builder Buyer Agreement on 16th April 2015. Upon reviewing the agreement, they found certain terms and conditions to be unacceptable. Consequently, they conveyed their concerns via an email dated 26th August 2015 in response to the draft agreement, which had been initially sent to them in a letter dated 16th July 2015. Among the objections raised by the complainants were the following:

  • Section A suggests that the entire land required for the housing colony has not been acquired as of now. Additionally, as per Section B, License No. 22 of 2011, which was referred to, expired in March 2015. This information was verified by checking the DTCP website on August 21, 2015. It’s apparent that there has been a breach of the promise regarding my application.
  • Clause F mention about several exceptions including ‘specification and location’ of the flat.  This has not been communicated to me before (at the time of book and thereafter) and this is the first time it is being mentioned.
  • In Clause 2, it is the first instance where Vatika mentions earnest money (EM) along with its definition. Up until this point, neither Vatika nor the involved broker had provided me with the definition of EM. The definition of EM as outlined in the Builder Buyer Agreement (BBA) is not agreeable to me; it cannot exceed 10% of the booking amount paid with an Expression of Interest.

Since the issues raised by the complainants were not addressed, they via email dated 06.12.2017 sought refund of the amount which they had paid to the OP along with interest. Rejecting the contentions advanced by the OP and allowing the consumer complaint, the Commission directed refund of the entire amount of Rs.37,05,892 which the said complainant had paid to the OP, along with interest on that amount @ 9% per annum. 

Legal Issue: Unfair clauses in the buyer builder agreement

  • Case-Pioneer Urban Land & Infrastructure Ltd. vs Govindan Raghavan
  • Decided on 02.04.19

Such wholly one-sided agreements were termed as unfair and were not approved by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Pioneer Urban Land & Infrastructure Ltd. Vs. Govindan Raghavan (2019) 5 SCC 725, decided on 2nd April 2019 which to the extent it is relevant reads as under:

“Incorporation of one-sided clauses in an agreement constitutes an unfair trade practice as per section 2®of consumer protection act.”

Quoted law-Section 2 (r) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines ‘unfair trade practices’ in the following words:

“‘Unfair trade practice’ means a trade practice which, for the purpose of promoting the sale, use or supply of any goods or for the provision of any service, adopts any unfair method or unfair or deceptive practice …”, and includes any of the practices enumerated therein. The provision is illustrative, and not exhaustive. 

Legal issue:Equality before the law

This court’s ruling states that our judges are duty-bound by their oath to uphold the Constitution and the law. The Constitution was established to ensure social and economic justice for all citizens of the country. Article 14 of the Constitution ensures that all individuals are entitled to equality before the law and equal protection of the laws. This principle dictates that the courts will not enforce, and will instead invalidate, when necessary, an unfair and unreasonable contract or any unfair and unreasonable clause within a contract. This holds particularly true when such contracts are entered into by parties who do not possess equal bargaining power. 

Legal Issue: Forfeiture of earnest money

  • CaseAmit Kansal vs M/s. Vatika Limited CC No. 1244 of 2015
  • Decided on 30.10.2019

The counsel representing the complainant also cited a decision of this Commission from the date 23.10.2017 in the case of Amit Kansal Vs. M/s. Vatika Limited CC No. 1244 of 2015. This case is related to an allotment made in the same project, ‘Tranquil Heights’. In the Amit Kansal case, the terms of the builder-buyer agreement sent to the complainants were not acceptable to him, and as a result, he requested modifications to the agreement, which the builder did not agree to. Consequently, he ceased making further payments and approached this Commission through a consumer complaint, seeking a refund of the amount paid to the builder along with interest, among other claims. The builder opposed the complaint, alleging, among other things, that the complainant was a speculator aiming for quick profits and had an obligation to sign the standard builder-buyer agreement sent by the builder for signatures.

Allowing the consumer complaint, this Commission directed refund of the entire amount which the said complainant had paid to the OP, along with interest on that amount @ 9% per annum. 

Legal Issue: Forfeiture of earnest money

  • Case-Mr Dinesh R Humane & Mrs Ranjana D. humane vs Piramal Estate Pvt. Ltd
  • Decided on 16.03.21

The RERA Estate Appellate Tribunal in Maharashtra ruled that when a sale and purchase transaction of a flat is cancelled at the initial stage, with the allottee merely booking the flat and making an initial payment on a printed form, and no further progress occurs in the transaction, where the parties never reach the point of executing a sale agreement, in such a unique situation, it is essential to consider the core objective of RERA, which is to safeguard the interests of consumers. Therefore, any amount paid by the home buyer to the promoter should be refunded to the allottee if they decide to withdraw from the project.

The Unhealthy Side of Health Drinks

The Unhealthy Side of Health Drinks

The Unhealthy Side of Health Drinks

The recent sensation caused by a viral video featuring an influencer discussing the excessive sugar content in a specific health beverage has stirred up significant controversy. Although the video garnered praise from experts, consumer advocates, and scientists, some influential figures within the industry expressed concerns, leading to the influencer eventually removing the video from their channel. However, the influencer’s message resonated powerfully: just how secure are these supposedly healthy beverages?

Nilanjana Bose

If you wish to see your child grow stronger, taller and wiser then you should rethink the health drink strategy. Yes, you have read it right. If you feel health drinks are the best supplements for your children, then it’s time to think again. 

Did you know that these malt-based health drinks are dangerously high in sugar and can lead to obesity and elevate risk of diabetes in children? As per UNICEF’s World Obesity Atlas for 2022, India is likely to be home to 27 million obese kids by 2030. Currently ranked 99 out of 183 countries in terms of handling the economic impact of obesity, one surely doesn’t want to add much to this unforgettable number. The latest ICMR study is also nothing to cheer for. India has more than 100 million people living with diabetes compared to 70 million people in 2019 according to the study published in Lancet recently. The study also revealed that 136 million people are prediabetic. The report also warns that ‘there are serious implications for the nation, warranting urgent state-specific policies and interventions to arrest the rapidly rising epidemic of metabolic NCDs in India.’ 

Lucrative Idea of Extra Nutrition

To attract both children and parents, most of the health drinks today are marketed to make children grow stronger and tougher. They are fortified with vitamins and minerals with claims of being the best for their children and families. It is not unnatural to find many parents including these health drinks in their daily routine in a bid to help them grow faster. But consumers need to understand that having anything extra doesn’t really take off the negative burden from the harmful nutrient content of the product. 

The World Health Organisation recommends that adults and children reduce their daily intake of “free sugars” to less than 10 per cent of their total energy intake. The term “free sugars” refers to all sugars added to food or drinks, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices.

In addition to the high sugar content, some health drinks also contain caffeine, which can cause headaches, and other side effects. Some also contain artificial sweeteners, which have been linked to a range of health problems including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. According to most experts, ideally these drinks should not be given on a daily basis to children as they are laden with sugar thereby making them addictive to it. These drinks have the potential to make children feel full making parents feel happy. But what parents miss out is the fact that these drinks even if they are fortified with vitamins and minerals have sugar which is extremely harmful for the growth and development of the children. Parents may think that they are providing their children with a healthy alternative to soft drinks, but in reality, they are often doing more harm than good.

Marketing Strategy

What sparkles is what sells – the mantra of todays’ marketing strategy. With attractive packaging and even better claims, they reach the hearts and minds of the consumers, parents in this case, who are always looking for ways and means for their children to grow faster and quicker. 

Most of these multinational companies play with the emotional angle of the parents and claim that if your child is not eating enough, he or she can get the deficient nutrition through these health drinks. Consumption of health drinks is not new in India. They existed even during the initial days of Independence when a certain drink almost captured the market. Then too, they used clever marketing strategies to lure the consumers. For decades, several brands have been selling these powdered drinks for children that are claimed to enhance healthy muscle growth and have body development properties with additional vitamins and minerals. Earning consumer trust and offering value many iconic brands have been around 75 years and more. They have centred their advertising around rebuilding energy, providing strength and helping in the overall growth of children. 

These sugar laden health drinks have slowly but steadily entered the homes of Indian parents without understanding the long-drawn repercussions of it. 

Why is too much sugar added in health drinks?

The reason why manufacturers add too much sugar to their products is because sugar has shown that it has addictive potential and acts specifically on certain brain pathways that provide a “reward effect” to consumers.

Advertisements and promotions change consumers’ perceptions and make them think that these sugary drinks are healthy thereby blinding them from fact-checking.

Role of the Government and other Stakeholders

What role should the government and other stakeholders assume in this situation? Numerous critics contend that the government’s current efforts are insufficient in safeguarding consumer rights against these detrimental products. Many advocate for more stringent regulations to ensure that companies are held responsible for the damage they inflict.

So, what can be done to protect consumers from these dangerous health drinks? The first step is for the government is to act as a watchdog and come up with strict safety standards. Until the government takes more decisive action, consumers will continue to be at risk from these dangerous “health drinks.”

The Solution – Front of Pack Labels

In September, FSSAI issued a draft regulation which proposes a star rating based labelling system. The draft was opened for public comments until November and the new regulation is keenly awaited. In 2018 the Food Safety Standards Authority India (FSSAI) published draft regulation for FOPL which was subsequently withdrawn for further deliberation. In 2019 December, FSSAI delinked FOPL from general labelling regulations. Since 2021, FSSAI and has sought consultations with civil society, industry and nutrition experts for a viable model for India. 

With India on the verge of adopting historic food labelling norms that could be a game changer for public health, research and studies from a number of esteemed scientific and medical institutions are corroborating that warning labels work best for people. To support FSSAI in making the right choice, doctors and scientists are furnishing scientific and technical evidence to reiterate this unanimous choice.

Health Star Ratings

Warning labels

0 to 5 ratings – An overall rating

Nutrient specific warnings like High in Fats, Sugar or Salt

Consumers especially those suffering from hypertension or diabetes will not understand if their product is high in fat, sugar or salt

Interpretive labelling and easy to understand

A recent study by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) study shows that warning labels deter more people from choosing moderately unhealthy or unhealthy variants. Warning labels, provide information about potential hazards associated with a product as they take into consideration nutrients of concern such as sugars, fats and salt. 

Star Rating labels as suggested by FSSAI, could be detrimental in improving public health of the country and is no way connected with NCD control as it doesn’t distinguish between healthy and unhealthy foods for consumers. Stars are attributed based on positive nutrients in unhealthy foods which is not desirable and also consumers are unable to understand clearly. Warning FOPL labels on the other hand gives points out to unhealthy foods which consumers can understand and make a choice.

Latest success report of warning labels


  • Warning labels have the potential to avert or delay 16% of the deaths caused by non-communicable diseases and save USD 732.8 million in Barbados. 
  • Implementation of Warning Labels in Chile lead to declines in purchased nutrients of concern. 
  • Israel implemented warning labels and many companies have started reformulating their products to a healthier one.

Though the regulation is a welcome move by the FSSAI, but it is based on a limited study done by the IIM ignoring the studies done by AIIMS and IIPS.  AIIMS Study & IIPS Study (both under MoH & FW) clearly stated that Warning Labels are best suited for diverse Indian population which is gradually adopting packaged foods.  Warning labels also do not risk creating a “health halo” around unhealthy products with positive labels, which could lead to over consumption of foods and drinks with higher-scoring labels. In the backdrop of a severe crisis of a sharply rising incidence of overweight and obesity, consequently increasing the risk of non-communicable diseases or NCDs in India, a wrong FOPL will be a disaster and will not be able to control Non-Communicable diseases, the very purpose of the Regulation.

One of the best ways to ensure that consumers make the right choice especially when it comes to nutrition for children is by having clear labels on packaged foods to allow consumers to make a quick and informed choice without the need to decipher complex nutritional information.

“FOPL is the most effective approach for preventing obesity and nutrition related NCDs like diabetes and hypertension. People need to understand clearly and simply what is in the food that they are buying. Food labels have to interpret the nutrition information for consumers across age, income and literacy levels.”

Dr. Barry Popkin

W.R. Kenan Junior, University of North Carolina

Gillings School of Global Public Health 

 “The ‘KAP study on FOPL in India’ by AIIMS had revealed that people find simple ‘warning labels’ easiest to read and understand. We should choose a label design that is scientific and there is enough research now to back warning labels as the best for Indian people.”

Dr Umesh Kapil, President of the Epidemiological Foundation of India 

“We can’t afford to get this wrong, not when over 60 lakh Indians are dying every year due to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). It is a well-known fact that Health Star Rating (HSR) misinforms consumers and does not compel industry to make their food products healthier, whereas a warning label provides instant recognition of unhealthy foods.” 

Ashim Sanyal, CEO, Consumer VOICE

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