By Rupin Chopra and Devika Mehra
In a nutshell, the term “Legal metrology” refers to the application of standardized legal requirements to measurements as well as measuring instruments. It refers to that part of metrology which treats units of weighment and measurement, methods of weighment and measurement and weighing and measuring instruments, in relation to the mandatory technical and legal requirements which have the objects of ensuring public guarantee from the point of view of security and accuracy of the weighments and measurements.
However, unlike the definition of ‘Legal Metrology’, the laws of Legal Metrology are not merely restricted to governing weighment and measurement, but also focus on consumer awareness by mandating printing of certain compliances on the label of a package. Thus, the term ‘Legal Metrology’ in this context has a much wider context than its literal meaning.
The Commonwealth Countries across the world have great similarity in their laws, since most them have their roots emerging from the Laws prevailing in the United Kingdom. The Laws of Maldives, too, are quite similar to those prevailing in India and are governed by Statutes discussed herein.
The Legal Metrology and Packing laws in Maldives are not yet crystalized under a dedicated Statute or Legislation. However, the laws in Maldives in general cover packaging regulations in the country, and one such law specifically covers Food and Tobacco products. Details of such statutes/laws in Maldives are as below:
- Regulation on Packaging and Labeling Tobacco Products – The primary purpose of these regulations are to regulate packaging and labelling of tobacco products in the country of Maldives. This Act focuses on informing the consumers of the health hazards and risks of consuming tobacco.
- National Standard for Labelling Pre-Packaged Food – This Act specifically aims towards the labelling of all prepackaged foods for consumers or for catering purposes. This also has certain provisions regarding presentation of such labelling.
- Consumer Protection Act [Act No. 1/96] – This Act determines the rights of the consumers and the protection of these rights.
The key takeaways from these Acts are as follows:
- The packaging may or may not contain all information over a label.
- Except for single ingredient foods, a list of ingredients shall be declared on the label.
- The name shall indicate the true nature of the food and normally be specific, and not generic.
- All ingredients shall be listed in descending order of ingoing weight (m/m) at the time of manufacture of the food.
- The net contents shall be declared in the metric system.
- The name and address of the manufacturer, packer, distributor, importer, exporter or vendor of the food shall be declared
The following foods and ingredients are known to cause hypersensitivity and shall always be declared:
- Cereals containing gluten i.e. wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, or their hybridized strains and products of these;
- Crustacea and products of these;
- Eggs and egg products;
- Fish and fish products;
- Peanuts, soybeans, and products of these;
- Milk and milk products (lactose included);
- Tree nuts and nut productsl; and
- Sulphite in concentration of 10 mg/kg or more.
- Added water shall be declared in the list of ingredients except when the water forms part of an ingredient.
- Pork fat, lard and beef fat shall always be declared by their specific names.
- The selling price shall be clearly marked on the goods themselves, or at a place easily visible to those entering the trading premises, on all goods (besides those exempted by the Ministry of Trade and Industries), irrespective of whether sold in retail or in wholesale.
- When a consumer requests to buy a good at the marked price, it shall not be sold at a price higher than the stated price.
- The name and address of the manufacturer, packer, distributor, importer, exporter or vendor of the food shall be declared.
- The country of origin of the food shall be declared if its omission would mislead or deceive the consumer. When a food undergoes processing in a second country which changes its nature, the country in which the processing is performed shall be considered to be the country of origin for the purposes of labelling.
Cigarettes and Tobacco:
- Each cigarette pack should be packaged with a minimum of 20 (twenty) cigarettes.
- Each rolled cigarette pack should be packaged with a minimum of 50 (fifty) rolled cigarettes.
- Rolling paper used for rolling cigarettes should not have any printing or writing and must be clean.
- Warning notice publicized by the Ministry should be added to the cover of the pack and carton of tobacco products imported to the Maldives, tobacco products made in the Maldives and products sold in the Maldives containing tobacco. It will not be deemed as acting in accordance with this Regulation where a warning notice containing a different statement or picture is printed.
- Products containing tobacco should not be labelled in a way that promotes interest in smoking or increases advertising.
- Should not include any label or drawing or writing or any other such thing that purports to reduce health risk if that product is used.
- Warning photograph and writing on a pack or carton of a product containing tobacco should not be less than 90% (ninety percent) of the surface area of each part of the pack where warning notice is required
In light of the above, it can be established that though the laws in Maldives do not quite differ from those prevalent in India, there are certain aspects quite specific to the Republic of Maldives. It would also be relevant to mention here that non- compliance of statutory provisions pertaining to legal metrology laws also attracts penalties under the relevant Acts.
The practice of ensuring effective use of Legal Metrology laws is a big step towards maintaining healthy consumerism and consumer awareness, whilst keeping a strict check on the quality of the products whilst ensuring transparency from the producers, manufacturers and/or importers.