Baba Ramdev
A file image of Ramdev showcasing his brand's products | Facebook
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According to Facebook and Twitter users, boxes of the ayurvedic product that bore an ‘April 2018’ manufacturing date were found on counters in March.

New Delhi: India’s food regulator has ordered an inquiry after viral images purportedly showed boxes of a Patanjali product on sale a month before their stated manufacturing date.

The product is Patanjali Giloy Ghan Vati, an ayurvedic medicine. According to Facebook and Twitter users, boxes of the medicine that bore an ‘April 2018’ manufacturing date were found on counters in March. The pictures went viral after users tagged the official handles of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in posts expressing concern.

“Several consumers have tagged the official handle of the FSSAI with pictures of the product. We have initiated an inquiry. The state food commissioners have been asked to verify samples from the market,” FSSAI chief executive officer (CEO) Pawan Agarwal told ThePrint. “Inspectors will check products across categories and submit a report, based on which we will reach out to the company involved.”

A Patanjali consumer tweeted image in March where the product had the manufacturing date of April|Twitter

Similar complaints had emerged last year about honey and murabba manufactured by the Baba Ramdev-owned brand.

The alleged rigging of production dates could be a manufacturer’s attempt to manipulate a product’s shelf life and keep it in the market longer than it should be, posing a danger to consumers.

Patanjali, however, has alleged the controversy is the result of foul play. “Our rivals have photoshopped the image. Their sales are coming down because of the rise of our brand and these days it is easy to malign reputations through social media channels. But these tricks are not going to stop the momentum of our growth,” said Patanjali CEO Acharya Balkrishna.

Hiccups aplenty

This is not the first time Patanjali has come under the regulators’ scanner. In 2017, the FSSAI had directed its central licensing authority to issue a showcause notice to Patanjali for allegedly misleading edible-oil advertisements.

The company was also pulled up by regulators for selling noodles and pasta despite lacking proper licences. The government later served a notice on Patanjali for the violation of food safety norms in the manufacture of atta noodles.

Last year, the retailing platform for India’s defence forces, the canteen stores department (CSD), suspended the sales of Patanjali’s flagship amla juice after it was deemed unfit for consumption.

However, despite the hiccups, the company’s turnover has increased exponentially, from Rs 453 crore in FY12 to over Rs 10,500 crore in FY17. In the last five years, the company has given tough competition to established and experienced rivals such as Godrej and Nestle India.

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