Friday, December 18, 2009


Food adulteration is supposed to be rampant in many developing countries including India and China but reliable statistics are hard to come by, giving a feeling that every thing is fine as long as large number of people do not die due to severe food poisoning. Statistics can also give a false sense of comfort when the fatality from food poisoning is extrapolated on a scale of number of deaths per population of a thousand or a million! Recent reports from Ludhiana and Ahmadabad regarding widespread food adulteration instances in these urban areas, if true, mean that food adulteration must the most profitable and safest "business" in India! Many sociologists believe that present deterrent policy is not strong enough to "kill" the incentive for adulteration and the example of China is often cited.

"China executed a dairy farmer and a milk salesman Tuesday for their roles in the sale of contaminated baby formula — severe punishments that Beijing hopes will assuage public anger, reassure importers and put to rest one of the country's worst food safety crises. The men were the only people put to death in a scheme to boost profits by lacing milk powder with the industrial chemical melamine; another 19 were convicted and received lesser sentences. At least six children died after drinking the adulterated formula, and more than 300,000 were sickened".

Execution for adulteration may be too severe a punishment though in the Chinese incidence melamine adulteration caused some death amongst children. Difficulties in assigning responsibility for adulteration cases do present problems in a society like that in India which is a democracy with a sound but complicated judicial system. Recent pronouncements by FSSAI, the Authority in charge of food safety, declaring complete overhaul of the monitoring and punishment system for culprits give some hope that it will be harsh enough to be deterrent for future food criminals.


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