Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Easy money has attracted many greedy business players from time immemorial. Adding water to milk was one of the easiest and most profitable businesses till the advent of instruments that can easily detect such economic fraud, though even to day in the unorganized dairy sector in India the practice still continues with the consumers unable to decide whether he is really getting standard quality milk. Fast development of frozen food industry has given unscrupulous processors another easy route for making a fast buck through water incorporation in their products, that too in a country like the US where quality enforcement is considered sacrosanct. This unethical practice has been exposed recently by the enforcement agency in that country.

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it is reviewing a multistate investigation that found shoppers have been paying for large amounts of ice that are not supposed to be included in the price of frozen seafood. The investigation — conducted by weights and measures inspectors in 17 states — found that a coating of ice applied to frozen seafood to preserve quality during storage and distribution often was wrongly included as part of the labeled weight of seafood. In some instances, the investigation found, ice accounted for 40 percent of the product's weight".

How a consumer can detect such devious practices is a critical issue that needs practical solution. After all the frozen packs purchased from the retail outlet goes straight to the kitchen freezer to be used after a few days and there is no way consumer can find out as to how much ice is present in the serving portion. Considering that industry even uses additives that can infuse water during processing, it becomes difficult for even a well equipped laboratory to come to any meaningful conclusion regarding the extent of water incorporated intentionally. Only the process log book of the processor can reveal the input-output ratio from which the extent of raw food that has gone into the retail pack can be determined. Can the consumer be given the "Right to Information" tool that will require any processor to reveal the facts from his records, as a mandatory procedure?

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