The festive season is upon us and this is the time when one hears of cases of adulterated sweets, food and other perishable edible items being sold in the market.
In Patiala too, residents needs to be aware of the problem especially when it has come to light that 25% of all food samples tested over the year (Till September 30) are adulterated.
Of the 494 food samples collected in the district over these nine months in 2015, as many as 129 samples were found adulterated and unsafe for human’s consumptions under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
Even as sample failure rate is relatively high, the health department’s record in launching prosecution cases is very poor.
In 2015 so far, the department has taken up only four cases for prosecution of the 129 failed samples. These are for a sample of grapes, sugarcane, a lemon juice bottle and a manufacturer of cold drinks.
Over the past four years, 57 civil and criminal cases have been taken up by the court against defaulters by the office of the additional deputy commissioner-cum-adjudication officer.
The health department had also collected a fine of around Rs 17 lakh over these four years.
Food items that regularly fail test
Officials in the health department claim that samples that routinely fail in the test are sweets, bakery products, grocery items and milk products. However, with the standing instructions to the field officers being to collect at least 100 samples a month, most officials were happy to just collect samples of locally-made cold drinks, snacks, fruit and fast-food products.
There is also a standing direction to the officials to take and test at least 100 samples a month. However, over the past few months the target has never been achieved.
In fact, even in October the month that marked the start of the festival season of Diwali, the department collected only 78 samples. The results of the lab tests are yet to arrive.
Over this year, the department collected 44 samples in January, 64 in February, 57 in March, 47 in April, 47 in May, 60 in June, 69 in July, 52 in August and 54 in September.
Only 55% establishments are registered
Of 20,000 eateries in the district that were supposed to get themselves mandatorily registered under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, only around 10,950 registrations and 1, 000 licences have been issued to stall holders, hotels, restaurants, dhabas, sweet shops, canteens, tea stalls, meat sellers, milk sellers and grocery stores.
The act has the provision of compulsory registration for all food businesses to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
Patiala district health officer (DHO) Rajpal Singh said, “During the festival season, it is commonly observed that adulteration increases. Sale of poor quality food also increases during this time. We are vigilant and collected 78 samples in October this year. Of this, we had 24 samples of milk and 16 samples of sweets.”