Sale of Patanjali amla juice to armed forces suspended

The Canteen Stores Department (CSD), the retailing platform for India's defence forces, has suspended the sale of Patanjali Ayurved's amla juice after receiving an adverse laboratory test report on the product that had helped establish the Baba Ramdev-fronted FMCG firm, The Economic Times reports.

An unfavourable report by the Central Food Laboratory in Kolkata has led to the suspension.

Started in 1948, the CSD is the retailer for India's defence forces, selling nearly 5,300 products to about 1.2 million personnel of the Indian defence services, including their families and ex-servicemen.

The ministry of defence manages the CSD, which comprises 3,901 canteens and 34 depots, and accounts for 5-7 per cent of total sales volumes for most consumer product companies.

In a letter dated 3 April, the CSD is said to have asked all its retailing depots to make debit notes for their current stock of the product so that it can be returned to the company.

Incidentally, the same lab in Kolkata had detected high lead levels and MSG in the samples of Nestle Maggi noodles two years ago, which had led Nestle to temporarily withdraw the brand across India. The company was able to get the product back on the shelf after a long-drawn legal battle and millions in losses.

For Patanjali, Amla juice was the product that helped it strengthen its foothold in the Indian consumer market and enter more than two dozen other categories.

It is not the first time that the Rs 5,000-crore Ayurved company will be locking horns with the regulators. The company has been questioned for selling noodles and pasta without the requisite licences, and had faced flak from the Food Standards and Safety Association of India (FSSSAI) over allegedly misleading advertisements for its edible-oil products.