With the onset of festive season, how can adulteration be far behind? Increased consumption of sweets means more demand for dairy products providing an opportunity to unscrupulous elements to make quick money by selling substandard stuff. Moreover, with a low conviction rate the repeated raids by the health authorities fail to act as a deterrent to check food adulteration.
Around Diwali every year at least 8-10 lakh sweet boxes (1 kg each) are sold in Chandigarh, but even after paying more customers are not sure of getting unadulterated food. The failure of health authorities to prove the allegations due to improper sampling have led to a high rate of acquittal. In the past four months, about 20 cases registered under prevention of food adulteration have been disposed of and only in one case allegations were proved and a person convicted. Around 250 cases are pending under the Prevention of Adulteration Act.
In June, a court held Anil Thakur hailing from Himachal Pradesh guilty and imposed rs15,000 fine on him. Thakur of AB foods situated in Sungal and Rampur Tea estates, Palampur, was convicted for misbranding. The health department had seized 20 bottles of orange squash from a shop in Manimajra. Setting the record straight, Dr KS Rana, designated officer under the Food Safety and Standards Act, said, “The low conviction has been an area of concern but with the new act - Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 - which replaces the prevention of food adulteration act, the conviction rate has improved. Most of the cases are still pending in the courts.”
Food adulteration cases registered under the prevention of food adulteration have been pending for more than two decades. After being pending for so long, all a person, if convicted, gets minimum sentence of one day of sitting in court and a maximum of imprisonment of a few months. Most of the cases registered in the city are for misbranding. “The cases of misbranding are more in the city as compared to food adulteration,” said Dr KS Rana, designated officer under the Food Safety and Standards Act.
No awareness on new Act
The lack of awareness among small vendors selling edible items about the Food Safety and Standards Act that provides for mandatory registration of shopkeepers dealing with sale of edible items is another area of concern. As per the Act, those associated with the food business and having turnover of `12 lakh per annum and above have to procure licence. Outlets having annual turnover less than `12 lakh have to get registration done under the act. “The awareness among resident is low but we hope that all vendors will be registered by February. The process of licensing is on and once done will definitely help check food adulteration,” said Dr Rana.
DC directs health dept to be vigilant
SAS Nagar DC Tejinder Pal Singh Sidhu directed the health officials to keep a close watch on defaulters and initiate action against them. Approximately one quintal cream, which was in unwanted condition, was destroyed on the spot.