The increase in number of food adulteration cases falling flat has left Chandigarh administration red faced. Though, more shocking the official responsible for collecting food samples are ill-trained.
The issue came to light in a recently held secretary-level meeting in which the UT deputy commissioner (DC) Mohammed Shayin, who also the adjudicating officers under the Food Safety and Standards Act, informed that the officials of the health department are not trained for collecting sample as a result of which a large number of cases brought before him are falling flat.
The adjudicating officer has the powers of a civil court and all the proceedings before him are deemed to be judicial proceedings.
According to sources, in past six months, around 20 cases of food adulteration brought before adjudicating officers have failed to reach logical conclusion. As per the procedure, samples are collected by food safety cell of the health department which further sends it for testing in Sector 11-based laboratory. As per the Food Safety and Standards Act, those given the duty of collecting food samples should be given proper training.
The Act demands that the officials, entrusted with job of gathering sample, should have knowledge of sampling techniques, particularly aseptic techniques, and of sample handling for transportation to a laboratory are essential to guarantee the integrity of samples taken for verification. In addition, the inspector must have a good knowledge of testing techniques so that he/she can make informed decisions about sampling methods and properly interpret the results of testing. It is also essential that the food inspector should possess thorough knowledge of the law(s) and regulations governing the operation of food processing facilities and the corresponding inspection procedures.
UT home secretary-cum-health secretary Anil Kumar said the officials responsible for collecting food samples have been sent for training. "We have made certain changes for effective implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act," said Anil Kumar.
Not following laid down rules while collecting samples have also led to high rate of acquittal in the district court also. In last one year about 50 cases were registered under prevention of food adulteration have been disposed out of which in only handful of cases allegations were. There are around 500 cases pending under the prevention of adulteration act in the lower court.
Expressing shock over lax approach of administration, city-based social activist and advocate Ajay Jagga said: "Not giving training to officials collecting samples makes it evident that the authorities have deliberately left an escape route for the accused persons."