KOLKATA | MUMBAI: Baba Ramdev-led Patanjali Ayurved has come under the Indian food regulator’s scanner yet again, this time over its edible oil brand advertisement, which is alleged to be misleading.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has directed its Central Licensing Authority to issue a show cause notice to the company.
The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA), a body of edible oil producers, filed a complaint against Patanjali in April claiming its advertisement for Kacchi Ghani Oil is misleading and derogatory.
Patanjali claimed that the company uses the ‘Kacchi Ghani’ process to make the oil while the edible refined oil and mustard oil of most other brands are made using the neurotoxin hexagon solvent extraction method.
It also claimed that many companies, in their pursuit for profit, mix cheap palm oil with mustard oil, which can be harmful to health. The print ad stated, that according to NCBI, an US institute, hexagon solvent, which is a petroleum by-product, is carcinogenic.
SEA had initially written to Patanjali Ayurved, requesting it to withdraw what it said was misleading statement in the ad. But after Patanjali failed to respond, it approached FSSAI as well as the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) for action.
“It is obligatory to refine all solvent extracted oils to make it fit for human consumption. So, it is very clear that hexane is not a harmful solvent and even during the refining process, traces, if any, gets removed completely from the oil and, hence, oil obtained from the refining process is completely safe for use,” said BV Mehta, executive director, SEA.
Mehta also said there is no evidence that exposure to hexane increases the risk of cancer in people.
When contacted, Acharya Bal-krishna, MD, Patanjali Ayurved, told ET, “If a show cause notice comes to us, we will respond to it. The fact that hexagon solvent is a petroleum by-product which is carcinogenic in nature is a well-known fact. We have merely pointed it out in the interest of our consumers. If you go on the internet you will find many reports that scientifically proves it.”
This is not the first instance where the Rs 5,000-crore Patanjali Ayurved has got into trouble with the regulators over its claims. In the past, it has been pulled up for selling noodles and pasta without licence.
But Patanjali’s marketing revolves around comparing their ayurvedic, or natural, brands, against similar products that use chemicals.
Abhneesh Roy of Edelweiss Financial reckons that this is a very common strategy among FMCG companies.
“Patanjali is very small right now and if you want to grow fast, you have to be disruptive, else how will the customer notice you?” he said.
Edible oil is still a highly commoditised category in India with large regional brands controlling the bulk of the market.