The festive season has already begun and with ‘Diwali’ on the threshold food safety officers are leaving no stone unturned to prevent food adulteration. They are keeping a strict watch on sweet and food outlets. There have also been crackdowns on mawa manufacturers in almost all states and about 66 samples of mawa were collected from Maharashtra during the recently concluded Ganpati festival.
According to reports, food safety officers will be on the lookout for signs of adulteration in sweets and milk products right up to Christmas. Food safety officials are inspecting sweet manufacturing units as maximum adulterants are found in sweets during the festive season. They have also made some seizures which include substandard water packets. Another adulterant that can cause health concerns for the consumer is the poor quality of oil used in preparing foods.
Milk alone is one of the most adulterated food products during the festive season as the demand for milk increases and supply cannot be met. Milk adulteration is of various kinds and includes adulteration with water, starch, urea, detergent, synthetic milk, salt and various chemicals.
Besides mawa and milk, FSSAI food inspectors are also collecting samples of ghee, oil and paneer. Food products seized in raids are usually tested for the following kinds of adulterants:
- Presence of vanaspati in sweet curd
- Presence of vanaspati or margarine in ghee
- Presence of blotting paper in rabri
- Coal tar dyes in ghee, cottage cheese, condensed milk, khoya, milk powder
- Starch in khoya, cheena and paneer
Adulteration is a term that is used for a food product that fails to meet food safety standards and is rendered unsafe for human consumption as it is injurious to health because there is
- addition of inferior quality materials
- extraction of valuable and nutritious ingredients
- biological and chemical contamination during the period of growth, storage, processing, transport and distribution of the food products that lowers or degrades quality
Under the previous food laws any food product with lowered or degraded quality used to be defined as Adulterated Food but under the new law (FSS Act, 2006), the word adulterated food has been termed as substandard food, unsafe food or food containing any extraneous matter.
“Unsafe food” means an article of food whose nature, substance or quality is so affected that it becomes injurious to health. This can be result from
- the article itself, the package and if it is composed wholly or in part of poisonous or deleterious substance
- the article consisting wholly or in part of any filthy, putrid, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal substance or vegetable substance
- unhygienic processing or the presence in that article of any harmful substance
- substitution of any inferior or cheaper substance whether wholly or in part
- addition of a substance directly or as an ingredient which is not permitted
- abstraction wholly or in part, of any of its constituents or by the article being so coloured, flavoured or coated, powdered or polished, in a manner as to damage or conceal the article or to make it appear better or of greater value than it really is
- the presence of any colouring matter or preservatives other than that specified
- the article being infected or infested with worms, weevils, or insects
- being prepared, packed or kept under insanitary conditions
- being mis-branded or sub-standard food or containing extraneous matter
- containing pesticides and other contaminants in excess of quantities specified by regulations.
According to the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, anyone found manufacturing, selling or storing adulterated food would be liable to pay a penalty ranging from between Rs.1 lakh to Rs.10 lakh and could also be sentenced to imprisonment for a term ranging between six months to life.