Y.S. RANA, CHANDIGARH— Does one Maggi scare make country safer? Food adulteration is a wide-spread problem across the country and Chandigarh is no exception. Increasing number of food adulterations indicates that the Chandigarh Administration underestimates the problem. Food raids are found few and far between if the Administration’s track record is of any indication.
According to FSSAI, an average 13 per cent of both
packaged and loose food items sold across the country have been found
to be adulterated. As per its data released by it, nearly 17 per cent
of the food samples tested in Chandigarh was found adulterated. As per
official data for the year 2013-14 shows that the officials from the
Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Department have collected and
analysed 146 samples. Out of these only nine were found adulterated
The department has initiated criminal and civil proceedings against
five and six respectively. No one has been convicted and only three
have been imposed penalties.
In 2011-12, the department had collected 184 samples
of food items across the city for laboratory tests. The items included
sweets, edible oil, milk, khoya, dals vegetables and species to name a
few. Only 15 were found unfit to eat and unhygienic to the health and
169 samples passed the test during the year. The numbers itself are a
drop in the ocean in Chandigarh where thousands of shops cater to the
needs of more than 12 lakh people. While residents have been
complaining adulteration of food items from time to time ‘raids’ of
the department raise many eyebrows. “Food adulteration is on the
higher side,” admitted the official of the PFA.
On the other, official of the PFA claimed the
department was talking all necessary steps to ensure healthy and
quality eatables in the city all the times by conducting raids,
Besides, the department has been conducted surprise raids in a bid
cracking down on suspected adulterators. “Cases are registered cases
who fail laboratory tests. Defaulters are prosecuted under the new
Food Safety and Standard Act,” says he.
Under the new Act selling of sub-standard food items
Rs 10 lakh maximum fine. In case of selling adulterated food items,
there is provision of seven years imprisonment and Rs 10 lakh fine
while in case of death due to adulterated foods seven years to life
imprisonment and Rs 10 lakh fine.
Last year, the Centre has chalked out two ambitious
plans, jointly worth Rs 1750 crore to strengthen the Food Safety and
Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and to augment testing tacilities
in states for curbing food adulteration in the country. Of this Rs
850 crore has been allocated for modernizing testing laboratories and
other facilities another Rs 900 crore is meant for boosting the
regulatory system in the States
While it aims at strengthening the Food Security Act and
Rules, authorities at centre and state levels have been busy playing
ping pong when it comes to providing healthy food to the people.
The Central government has recently chalked out zero
food adulteration strategy to nail the menace. National Food Science
and Risk Assessment Centre on the lines of Centre for Disease Control
and Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in USA to be set up
under the new plan. More laboratories will be opened for food testing
in the States. More staff for better surveillance and creating
awareness for public and food business operators
Maggi controversy has provided a learning lesson for
companies, regulators, governments, the media and the public at large
on how to enforce standards of food safety and how to avoid knee-jerk
reactions. Finger is also raised whether all the labs that are used
to analyze the chemical composition of food competent and certified.