What is the meaning of ‘best before the date’ written on the body of a food container

One can Complain that the label did not contain “best before date” and hence the food item was misbranded, as it contravened R.32(i) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules. Since the item involved in this case was having a short shelf life of less than three months, it was necessary to mention only the date of manufacture on the label. Therefore, the only violation alleged by the Public Analyst was that instead of showing “best before date” on the label, the food item in this case had the label “assurance 30 days”.

 I may now consider as to whether by writing the words ‘assurance 30 days’ instead of ‘best before date’, it would contravene R.32(i) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955. By using the words “best before date”, the meaning intended to be conveyed is that the consumer must use it before that date. I may now examine whether the public would be misguided by writing the words “assurance 30 days” instead of writing ‘best before date’ on the label. For that purpose, it is necessary to understand the meaning of the word “assurance”. In P. Ramanatha Aiyar’s Advanced Law Lexicon, fourth edition, the word ‘assurance’ in contract means “making secure” or “insure”. In Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, Ninth Edition, the synonym of the word ‘assurance’ is ‘guarantee’. Therefore, even though the terminology found in ‘assurance 30 days’ and ‘best before date’, differs in appearance, actually, no consumer would definitely be misguided, if he happens to see the words ‘assurance 30 days’. In the said circumstances, even if the words ‘best before date’ are not there and instead, the words assurance 30 days’ are there, it will not, in any way mislead the consumer, and hence by no stretch of imagination, it can be said that the product had been misbranded, particularly when the product was not adulterated.

In an case in Nehrudasan v. Food Inspector, Madurai Corporation (2010 (1) FAC 49), a learned Single Judge of the High Court of Madras held that the absence of the words “best before date” and use of words “use within six months from the date of manufacture” would not in any way mislead the consumer and hence, it could not be termed as misbranding of the product.

By using the language ‘best before date’, the meaning to be conveyed is that the consumers must use it before the period mentioned therein and if such a meaning can be conveyed by the language ‘assurance 30 days, it cannot be said that there was misbranding of the food item. In this case, it is clear from the words ‘assurance 30 days’ that there was guarantee for the product only for thirty days. The date of manufacture was also mentioned on the label. Therefore, any consumer, who reads ‘assurance 30 days’ would be able to know that the product would be guaranteed only for a period of thirty days from the date of manufacture. The mere change of words would in no way, in my view, mislead the usage of the product among the public and hence, it cannot be said that the product had been misbranded. In the case on hand, the absence of the words ‘best before date” would not in any way mislead the consumer and hence, by no stretch of imagination, it could be treated as misbranding of the product contravening the provisions of R.32(i) of the Rules, particularly when the food item was not adulterated.[ (2016) CriLJ 2069 : (2016) 4 JCC 2302 : (2016) 1 KHC 752 : (2016) 1 KLT 753 : (2016) 4 RCR(Criminal) 41- KERALA HIGH COURT MARTIN JOSEPH — Appellant Vs. STATE OF KERALA — Respondent]