Ruling on a request by a non-governmental organization (NGO), two supreme court justices in India have reportedly asked the government to remove food and soft drink company representatives from food-safety standards and enforcement panels. According to the justices, the industry representation clearly breaches the mandate of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. Under the law, government panel members must be independent scientific experts who may consult with the food industry and consumers before adopting standards regulating the manufacture, storage, distribution, sale, and import of food products.

The NGO had reportedly sought a scientific investigation into the contents of soft drink beverages, claiming that their consumption is a major cause of adolescent obesity. An industry spokesperson apparently responded by calling obesity a rich man’s problem in a country where more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line. He cited the Indian Council for Medical Research, which stated, “[A]vailable literature does not clearly establish a direct cause and harmful effect relationship between consumption of carbonated beverages and its effects on human health.” See The Times of India, February 9, 2011.