Tuesday, April 26, 2011


In general the food quality and safety surveillance system in India is considered weak with hardly any convictions taking place against food adulterators while the country is flooded with spurious, sub-standard and unsafe foods of local make as well as imported. Even the small number of culprits caught and punished are private traders and some small industry players while government connected agencies dealing with food are never checked. A number of cooperative dairies peddling milk and milk products are known to violate government standards but it is rare that their samples are picked up for testing by the food authorities. A dichotomy that deserves condemnation because adverse effect on consumer due to unsafe foods whether from the private source or government source, will be same. Here is a case of food grains of questionable standard being channeled through the PDS system with no one too much concerned about it.

"The report of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) of India has revealed that no tests are being carried out to determine the quality of foodgrains to be distributed under public distribution system (PDS). Food grain is received from the food corporation of India (FCI) by the state government. The report states that to ensure the prescribed quality of food grains, the PDS (Control) Order, 2001stipulates that before making payment to the FCI, state government representatives or nominees and the FCI should conduct a joint inspection of the stocks of foodgrains intended for issue. The order also states that the FCI should issue stack-wise sealed samples of the stock of foodgrains supplied to the state government for distribution. "It was observed in audit that such joint inspections to ensure the quality of foodgrains as per the PDS (Control) Order, 2001 were not conducted by the department during the period spanning 2005-10. The department also did not obtain sealed samples of the stock of food grains supplied by FCI during the period 2005-10", the report stated".

Whether there are explicit instructions from the state governments which control the public health department dealing with food safety and quality, not to take any samples from the organizations like dairies is not known. Another probable reason could be that government agencies do not pay the bribe to inspectors which is a "disincentive" against proceeding against them. GOI may be too concerned that if real quality checks are done a substantial portion of the food grains would be found unfit for human consumption, causing disruption to PDS! Unfortunately the poor "Aam Admi" is the silent sufferer because of this dichotomy on the part of the government.

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