Thursday, November 17, 2011


Processed foods world over getting a bad name because of their supposed negative impact on health, another dimension has been added to this controversy by the recent clamp down on carrying foods in flights both domestic as well as international by one of the leading aviation companies in India. Though no official explanation was forthcoming from the concerned company, the logic could be the "vitiating" the environment in the plane by these foods especially meat, fish and poultry products with short life and easy susceptibility to microbiological deterioration that can cause health hazards. Interestingly vegetarian foods have not been brought under the category of banned foods though highly spiced preparations containing intensely "smelly" substances like garlic can pose problems to fellow passengers. The argument by some of the affected passengers that vacuum packed and canned foods are stable and will not emit any adverse odor is a valid one besides they being safe from microbiological spoilage and consequent health hazard. Probably there should be a uniform civil aviation policy that will govern all the air lines keeping in view the pros and cons of allowing stabilized and sealed food products in checked baggage. Here is a take on this issue which seems to have raised a storm in Goa.

"Goa's ever-active Internet discussion groups have been buzzing in recent days with complaints about a new Jet Airways policy banning passengers from carrying meat, fish and poultry products on both domestic and international flights even in their checked-in luggage. The policy was quietly introduced at the end of June, with little explanation. "With immediate effect carriage of fish, crab, sea food, meat and poultry products will be prohibited as check-in baggage," according to a statement from the airline. Passengers from Goa say vacuum-packed sausage and canned tuna fish are among the items confiscated, and are threatening to boycott the airline. "With this policy of Jet Airways, it is surely going to lose a big chunk of Goan business not just from Goans but other passengers too who love taking Goan sausages to enjoy a bite," predicted one Goan news site. It isn't surprising that the restrictions should have elicited so much irritation in Goa, whose residents have a hearty appetite for spicy chorizos, vindaloo and other carnivorous delights. But it may not be long before residents of other states begin to grumble, too. Despite the conventional wisdom that most Indians are vegetarian, the country's Anthropological Survey estimates that approximately 80 percent of the population eats the varieties of food prohibited by the airline".

One of the imponderable issues is how such a rule can be uniformly administered because of the logistical problem involved to detecting food products in the checked baggage of passengers. Of course the cabin baggage can be easily checked when one passes through the security screening and those carrying foods can be segregated. Carrying bottled water beyond the X-ray screen is already not allowed and same can be applied to foods also. Similarly processed foods packed in hermetically sealed containers, aseptically filled items, retort pouched products and dry foods must however be allowed to be in checked in baggage in domestic flights. The concerned airlines should be graceful enough to modify its current baggage policy to exempt the above products.


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