Thursday, January 3, 2013


The problem of food adulteration is assuming serious proportions in many countries including many economically wealthy ones and it is becoming more and more acute in most of the third world countries including India. The root cause of such a disturbing situation is under developed infrastructure for monitoring, inadequate testing personnel and poor analytic facilities. Bureaucratic and legal delays in processing the food adulteration cases further compound the problem. Against such a background it is pleasing to hear from Nepal that the government there, in spite of the current political instability, is taking progressive steps to tackle food safety problems. Here is a take on this new development which must be applauded.

"The Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) has decided to put its mobile inspection van on the road by the end of this week. The vehicle is equipped with advanced equipment enabling department inspectors to test the quality of a food sample instantly on the spot. The DFTQC will use the van to test for adulteration like inedible colours and unwanted micro-organisms in food sold in the market. "We will be using the van to check the quality of food items being sold in the market," said Pramod Koirala, spokesperson for the DFTQC. "It will help food inspectors to test the food on the spot and take immediate action," he said. The DFTQC has rolled out its lab on wheels amid growing cases of adulteration of food stuff. Last year, the department found 20.83 percent the food items it checked to be adulterated or substandard. According to the DFTQC, bottled water, milk and milk products, ghee and edible oil and sweets products are among the substandard products found in the market. Currently, the department needs to send the food specimens collected from the market to its laboratory situated at the DFTQC's central office for tests. This has delayed identifying impurities in the food items and punitive action against the wrong doers. This has also made its food quality control ineffective. "Thevan will allow us to file a case or recommend action against offenders immediately," said Koirala. According to him, there will be two food testing officers in the van . Although the DFTQC plans to test 1,000 food samples every year, its inspection effort has been ineffective due to lack of manpower and other resources. Currently, the department has been conducting inspections only once a week. With the use of the labvan , the DFTQC has planned to increase the frequency of market inspection. "As the using the van is cost effective for the purpose, we will also increase the number of food samples for cross checking," said Koirala.
The department acquired the van , which has a price tag of Rs 10 million".

With almost one fifth of the food products made in Nepal being found adulterated, one outdoor van for on-the-spot testing may be too few to cope up with the situation. It is possible the government may expand this type of facilities by investing more money in acquiring such modern mobile outdoor labs in the coming years after gaining experience with the first one currently launched. Unless the manufacturers and traders involved in food related activities are sure about severe consequences of playing around with the lives of consumers through unsafe products, the ever increasing number of food related health episodes cannot be checked satisfactorily. Nepal is setting a fine example to other countries to follow with such new initiatives.


No comments: