Court Rejects Coca Cola’s Plea to Quash Case Over Expired Maaza Sale

The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently handed down a significant decision in a case involving Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd. (hereafter referred to as Coca Cola) and the sale of expired Maaza Mango Drink. This case highlighted the responsibilities of manufacturers in ensuring the quality and safety of their products even after they leave their control.

The case originated in March 2013 when a Food Safety Officer in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, collected a sample of ‘Maaza Mango Drink’ from a local restaurant. Upon examination, the sample was found to be unsafe for consumption due to the presence of fungal growth formation on the neck and mouth of the bottle, as well as on the surface of the product.

After obtaining the necessary sanctions, the Food Safety Officer filed a formal complaint in March 2014. Subsequently, on August 20, 2014, a Judicial Magistrate First Class issued summons in the case.

Challenging these summons, Coca Cola argued that the responsibility for the sale of the expired product rested with the retailer who continued to sell it even after the expiry date. Coca Cola contended that it could not be held accountable for the retailer’s actions.

Coca Cola pointed out that the product was distributed to stockists and retailers with clear indications of its date of manufacture and the period during which it was safe for consumption. However, the Court raised concerns regarding the lack of documented evidence to support the claim that the product reached the restaurant, the point of sale, and whether it was indeed sold after its expiry date.

The Court emphasized that the manufacturer of a food product cannot evade liability for the sale of unsafe products by shifting the blame to the retailer. Under the Food Safety and Standards Act, a manufacturer or packer of a food item is liable for ensuring that their products meet the necessary safety and quality standards. All parties involved in the distribution chain, including manufacturers, distributors, packers, wholesalers, and retailers, operate under contractual agreements. As such, the manufacturer shares a significant responsibility for the safety and quality of their products.

The Court further noted that the duty of the manufacturer extends to ensuring that none of their products, including expired ones, remain within the possession of wholesalers, distributors, or sellers beyond their expiry dates. Manufacturers are expected to recall or remove expired products from the market and take appropriate actions to prevent their sale.

In summary, the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s decision reaffirms the principle that manufacturers are ultimately accountable for the safety and quality of their products, even after they have left their control. The judgment reinforces the duty of manufacturers to maintain the integrity of their products throughout the supply chain, emphasizing that they cannot shift responsibility to retailers when unsafe or expired products are found in the market.