Thursday, October 9, 2014


"Profit at any cost" seems to be the driving force of eateries in India which blatantly violates the country's food safety laws with impunity day in and day out with the customers left to fend for them selves as far as the ill effects of the undesirable practices indulged by this sector are concerned. If such violations are far and few, one can understand them as aberrations of the system but when they become the rule rather than the exception, time has come to take strong deterrent action to discipline the sector. Latest to emerge is a criminal act on the part of eateries, mostly in the unorganized sector of food vending in using thin plastic sachets to carry hot tea and serve the same in thin plastic cups to the customers. This is all the more appalling considering that comparatively safer paper cups which are marginally costlier are readily available. Why such unsafe practices are being tolerated in this country is due to the utterly hopeless safety monitoring system in vogue, Here is an investigative report by a popular news paper recently.

"It is understood that most food or beverages sold in restaurants or stalls contain trace quantities of contaminants, but in the case of the piping hot cups of tea purchased from roadside vendors in the City, Plastic bags used to parcel food pose serious health risks A series of investigations by Deccan Herald have shown that much of this tea is not transported in thermos flasks, as expected, but are actually stored in thin, low-quality packets of plastic. Not only does this practice suggest that the government's awareness drive on the ill-effects of using plastic has seen little success, but according to medical practitioners, the food itself is frequently contaminated by chemicals found in the packets. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a doctor from a government hospital said that plastic bags are not only harmful to the environment but also to people. "There are various chemicals disseminated from plastic bags like polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene and polystyrene and consuming food or a hot drink from plastic packets leads to various complications in the human body," he said. Another medical practitioner, cardiovascular specialist, Sanjay Mehrotra, revealed that the average person in the City already has around two to three grams of plastic in their body. "In one way or other we are consuming plastic through our food," he said. "People are not aware of the harmful affects of consuming food stored or carried in a plastic container or packet."

Is the situation so hopeless that the citizens in this country are resigned to their fate as the rigid bureaucratic regulatory system just does not work with grossly inadequate infrastructure? If public funds can be squandered on many welfare programs of dubious value, why the government is not considering food safety as a priority area crying for attention and resources and make available adequately trained technical staff and necessary support without losing further time? One really wonders why the food safety program is being thrust on the Health Ministry which has no clue regarding the intricacies of food processing, quality and safety hazards. If announcements, proclamations, claims, grand postures etc can work, India would have been the land of milk and honey as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi because hardly a day passes without any politician or a bureaucrat making grand statements regarding "what is going to be done", never to be followed up! Remember the "banning" of plastic shopping carry bags of less than 20 microns some years ago which is still in the statute book but forgotten long ago allowing the same to continue and flourish under the very eyes of the government! God save the country!


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