Health Ministry recently released data of the 46,283 food samples that it had analysed in government laboratories during 2013-2014 and found 9,265 samples to be adulterated or misbranded. Samples included milk and milk products, edible vegetable oils and spices. The samples were taken from across the country from registered or licensed vendors. This means that almost 20% of the food items failed to meet the quality standards set by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
Besides consolidating laws related to food, FSSAI was established for laying down science-based standards for food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import. It also lays down laws for recalling adulterated food products.
Health officials found that even top restaurants, fast food outlets and food chains were serving food products that the FSSAI termed unsafe and hazardous to consumer health. ‘Rizo Rice’ was found to contain tartrazine and other synthetic colour termed dangerous, substandard maize and cornflour starch was being used by some food chains. In some restaurants spices were adulterated while some other food outlets were selling unsafe prepared food. Sweetmeats like ‘besan barfi’, ‘kaju tukra’, ‘boondi ladoo’ were not only termed substandard by FSSAI but colours used were found to be harmful. ‘Channa’ and ‘paneer’ items served in some well- known eateries in Dwarka were also declared as substandard.
The government food safety officials, in a random check of containers, found full cream, toned and mixed milk products of substandard quality. In Delhi alone at least 27 food and milk products failed the quality test and were termed as substandard whereas six products were found to be unsafe for human consumption. The samples taken were from many posh localities of Delhi like Connaught Place, Karol Bagh and from Malls around the city.
The licensed food business operators have quality control checks yet they are not able to keep the standards set by FSSAI. If this is the ‘quality’ standard maintained by licensed food chains, established eating outlets and sweet shops then what will be the standard found in those food outlets that are not even registered or licensed? The consumer needs to be aware of how unconcerned food operators are playing with their health.
Since primary responsibility for enactment of the Act lies with the states so after the tested food samples were found to contain adulterants, states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra where a significant number of cases have been uncovered, the state FDA has launched prosecution cases against the offending outlets. The Health Ministry has also registered cases against food product manufacturers involved in alleged adulteration and misbranding. In Delhi alone there are 61 such cases that have been initiated against manufacturers and vendors.
It is important to note here that every food business operator has to comply with the Conditions of the License like Schedule 4, Good manufacturing practices and very important one is that they should get their food articles tested from a NABL accredited / FSSAI notified lab, at least once in every six months.