Friday, October 18, 2013


A recent report about seizure and destruction of huge quantities of Chutney products in Ahmadabad by the food safety authorities there because of their low quality and unhygienic environment focuses on the impunity with which food fraudsters thrive in the country. These raids do not address the core of the problem, that is about the inability of the safety agencies to sustain activities that could be deterrent to such fraudsters. True people love chutneys of different types as accompaniments to a number of traditional Indian cuisines and the recipes vary from region to region, the most common property being their susceptibility to rapid spoilage as they contain high water content. Most chutneys, except may be the sweet variety are liked when consumed fresh and preparing them under insanitary conditions using sub standard ingredients can be dangerous because of infection by bacteria that can easily cause stomach upset, especially among consumers with "weak" stomach and low immunity. Here is a take on this episode in Ahmadabad.

Dabelis, sandwiches and vada pavs, laced with the red and green chutney, are a hot favourite with Amdavadis. But ever wondered about the quality of that chutney, often prepared in completely unhygienic conditions and that, too, with substandard material?  The health department of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) raided one such chutney manufacturing unit in Vatva ward on Tuesday and destroyed over 4,000 kg of low-quality chutney.  During the raid, six food inspectors found that vegetables, acetic acid and colours were being used to prepare the chutney. "We found that the manufacturer used boiled potatoes to make the thick chutney, which was later filled in huge plastic barrels in unhygienic conditions," said one of the inspectors requesting anonymity. The health officials also found that the chutney manufacturer had been functioning without health and food licences. Also, the chutney, which was packed in 5 kg bottles and sent to food stalls and hotels across the city, did not have information like date of manufacture, name of manufacturer, date of expiry, etc. "We have seized more than 4,000 kg of the chutney and destroyed it in the Pirana dumping yard. Also, samples have been collected and sent to the public health laboratory for testing," said Suhas Kulkarni, AMC medical officer of health. Incidentally, the health department had been trying to trace the illegal chutney manufacturer for the past three days. This was because the packet or the bottle has no mention of the manufacturing place in the city.

Street vending is an unavoidable phenomenon in countries like India and people flock at these vending carts because of the taste and freshness associated with them. Generally these foods are safe as long as they are hot served. How ever there are some preparations served cold and the chances of infection could be very high depending on the quality of water used. Unfortunately some of these vendors use water of suspect quality though lately use of processed water in large carboys is becoming the standard. The manufacturers of the Chutney in Ahmadabad obviously indulged in making a product without getting the necessary permits from the authorities and therefore had suspect intentions regarding the quality of their products.


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