FDA minister alleges Centre favoured energy drink maker

Dharmendra Jore

Mumbai, Nov. 17 -- State Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) minister Manohar Naik wants the Centre to withdraw an amendment to the regulation in the Food Safety and Standards Act, which, he alleged, was made to favour the international brand of energy drink 'Red Bull', allowing it to have unsafe caffeine levels.

Naik shot off a letter to Union health minister Gulam Nabi Azad last Friday alleging that the Central agency was biased in its approach.

"Recently, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India amended the regulation only for this particular product (Red Bull) and not the class of product, and allowed it to contain 320ppm (parts per million) of caffeine instead of 145ppm."

The minister's letter stated, "The adverse effect of caffeine, if injected [consumed] in quantities is very well known. Accordingly, this brand was being confiscated (by FDA) and legal action taken."

Red Bull India dismissed the minister's claim. It said in a statement to HT that one 250ml can of Red Bull energy drink contained about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (80 mg) - a caffeine level approved by the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India).

Naik, who belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party, said that under the law any energy drink also classified as non-alcoholic carbonated beverages was not allowed to have caffeine content more than the permissible 145ppm, yet Red Bull was allowed to increase its caffeine quantity to a very unsafe level.

He said the drink would affect the health of young people in particular because they tended to consume such energy drinks in large quantities.

Naik said that though the Food Safety and Standards Act would go a long way in improving the health status of the Indian population, the (Centre) administration would have to make efforts to analyse the ill-effects of new food products being aggressively marketed in the country.

He wants Azad to direct authorities to reconsider and withdraw permission.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.