Thursday, March 15, 2012


In Kashmir there appears to be a schism between senior food officials and the field staff entrusted with detecting adulteration in foods marketed in the Valley if recent reports emerging from there is any indication. FSSAI wanted to corner all the "glory" in shocking the nation by proclaiming from New Delhi that the extent of adulteration in milk and other common foods is alarmingly high and the implication is that preventing such frauds is not its responsibility! Close on this comes the Kashmir report which should make every Indian hang his head in shame realizing how incompetent the food safety assurance system in this country is. If the field staff finds that the samples picked up by them for testing are not properly dealt with because of inadequate infrastructure and technical personnel or due to sheer indifference of higher officers in charge or for favoring the adulterators for pecuniary considerations, whatever little morale left is bound to evaporate making the situation more grave at the ground level. Here is a take on this issue.  

"After the shocking revelations by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India that 83 per cent of milk produced and consumed in Jammu and Kashmir was contaminated with components like salt, detergents, caustic soda and several other harmful substances, the Drugs and Food Control Organization, Kashmir, Friday asserted 30 per cent of food items in the Valley were "highly adulterated," while Kashmir alone consumed 75 per cent of contaminated milk. "Kashmir consumes 30 per cent of adulterated food items - spices, biscuit, edible oil, salt, and many other eatables, which is shocking. Besides, the Valley people alone consume 75 per cent contaminated milk being produced by local companies," public analyst/ designated officer, Drugs and Food Control Organization, Hamidullah Dar, alleged while talking to Kashmir Observer. He said the food safety officers had been working in different districts and sub districts to check the menace of contamination and they had been collecting samples of milk from time to time, for which they had already sent reports to higher authorities to take action against the companies involved in adulteration. "We collected samples from every corner of the valley and during their testing we found that out of eight samples, six were adulterated with starch, detergent and some synthetic substances," Dar said, adding "In many other food and edible items, our experts found that turmeric and chili powder, sounp, sweets, ghee, pickles, oils, salt had been adulterated with toxic colors, starch with other harmful substances". He said his team had done the sampling and prepared the report before FSSI. Asked why he did not take action against the companies involved in contamination, Dar said, "As a concerned officer, my job is to frame the report and highlight the areas and companies involved in contamination and my work remains restricted to laboratory only, rest is the job of higher authorities." Reliable sources in the Drugs & Food Control Organization said contaminated products were a source of income for various law enforcement officials and other unscrupulous elements. "Contamination is possible only when concerned administration officials adopt a non-serious approach towards the companies involved in the crime. Although lower rung officials do their job like sampling, testing and reporting their findings to the food commissioner and other authorities who, on their part more often than not prefer to look the other way. The chief minister should order appropriate action in the matter," said a well placed official, wishing anonymity. Refuting claims of the commissioner, Food Safety, that food inspectors had been asked to collect samples, sources revealed their earlier reports had been ignored. "On August 5, 2011, we started sampling in different areas and all the food inspectors worked very hard, and then we found most of the products, milk as well as other eatables contaminated. We sent the report to the commissioner sahib, what happened to that, please ask him," said the official.

Probably food adulteration may be the only area where India beats China hollow and in deciding whether one wants to cry or laugh at this "achievement" is a matter of choice for the consumer. Ironically if the Health Minister of this country is to be believed there are no serious food poisoning episodes "reported" in the country during the last year and hence every thing should be fine! With a non-existent reporting and documentation system about food poisoning episodes, is it ever possible to know how many people are affected by food adulteration? Ignorance is bliss and an ignorant government is fooling itself by imagining that its food safety management system is functioning well! Whether in controlling the spiraling prices of processed foods or deterring the processors and traders from indulging in food adulteration, the citizen has no doubt that the governments at the state as well as the central levels have miserably failed him!


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