MUMBAI:While arguing its case for levying VAT on the milk sold in Tetra Pak cartons which contains ingredients derived from synthetic sources, Maharashtra Sales Tax Department has said that such milk may not be fit for consumption during religious fasts even though there are no proven health risks associated with their intake.
Several brands, including dairy major Amul have opposed the move to levy five per cent VAT on Tetra Pak milk, saying the tax can’t be imposed on such an essential item like milk. As per the department’s rules, VAT is applicable on milk if it were reconstituted and bears a brand name. Reconstituted milk has been defined as the milk whose ingredients are either changed or upgraded after pasteurisation.
The Tetra Pak milk business in the state is worth more than Rs 1,000 crore, and the VAT on the milk’s sale comes to around Rs 50 crore per year.
During the court hearing, the department submitted documents corroborating its claim that vitamin A and D added to Tetra Pak milk were derived from synthetic sources. “A company earlier claimed that milk naturally has vitamin A as its ingredient. Our research showed that one can’t derive vitamin A from milk. When we further investigated the matter, the company confessed that it had added vitamin A to the milk to upgrade its quality. Certainly, the source of the added vitamin was not natural. It’s not hazardous to health but raises doubts as to whether such reconstituted milk could be fit for fasts,” a senior department official said.
He said the onus was on the milk company to prove that the added vitamin was derived from natural sources. Next hearing Scheduled is held for September 24.