Friday, September 13, 2013


Does food industry really deserve the trust and confidence it enjoys from the innocent consumers who buy their products day in and day out thinking they are safe and good? This question becomes all the more crucial in a country like the US where almost 80% of the food consumed daily by an average family comes from the processed food industry! In contrast in countries like China and India hardly 20% of the daily foods comes from the commercially processed segment. One may argue that the damage potential from the industry due to sub-quality and fraudulent foods may not be much! But this is a specious argument not worthy of any consideration because the two countries together account for about 2.5 billion plus people, almost one third of the world population. It should be borne in mind that an important sector like food processing industry cannot be allowed to injure the health of even a single individual by its fraudulent action. The shocking news that in China almost 5% of the package food industry turn over is accounted for by recycled foods made from date expired market returns should disturb the conscience of the world. Here is a take on this unfortunate situation obtaining in China vis-a-vis recycling of foods rejected by the retail market.   

"Snacks made from expired animal proteins sold in vacuum-sealed packaging are collected from underground companies by food processors in Wenzhou China and sold to people nationwide as fresh food. Such recycled junk accounts for as much as 5% of the Chinese packaged food business, reported Jiangnan Times on Friday. Wenzhou police uncovered 10 underground mills in Zhejiang's Cangnan County in June, including large quantities of chemical additives and food coloring agents to give the expired goods a fresh look. Officers said millions of tons of expired packaged food is recycled in Pingyang County each year and sold to the public. Companies dumping the expired food products include market names like Xiangbalao, a famous Wenzhou brand, according to the newspaper. The expired foods are unwrapped and then bleached with cleaning powders. Then they are sold to food processors who use chemical additives to improve the appearance, repack them and sell them to grocery and package stores nationwide".

While the report which surfaced due to the efforts of some investigative journalists may reflect on the effectiveness of food security regime presently in place, a country like India cannot gloat over it as the situation there is no better. With unreliable data and reporting system and an ineffective safety vigilance apparatus in place, there must be millions of food frauds taking place across the country, unnoticed and unreported. Poor citizens are left to suffer silently with recourse to justice either from the executive branch or the elephantine judicial system! Isolated cases like the recent Bihar school lunch tragedy claiming 23 innocent lives briefly receives attention to be forgotten promptly within a few days! With precious national resources being wasted on non-productive and non-asset building programs, the federal government has neither the money nor the commitment to protect the health of the citizen through effective implementation of its own food safety regulations promulgated 2-3 years ago!


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