Adulterated food items like sweets and milk products mar the bonhomie and spoil the flavour of the festive season. Taking into consideration the spurt in cases of spurious food items, especially ahead of Diwali, the health department is on its toes to catch the perpetrators.
Jalandhar civil surgeon Dr RL Bassan said, "We are well prepared to curb incidents of food adulteration in the city and ensure residents get to celebrate a safe and hygienic Diwali. Ahead of the festival, I have conducted a meeting with sweetmeat makers in the city and directed them to abide by the norms."
Frequent raids are being conducted in the city to keep the suppliers of spurious food items at bay.
A sweet shop was raided on Friday following reports of substandard items being sold by it and after a raid by the health department on its premises; samples have been collected and sent for testing at Chandigarh. On September 16, a factory was sealed by the health department for manufacturing spurious ghee.
In the past two months, around 122 food samples have been collected and sent for testing to the Chandigarh lab out of which 27 samples have tested positive for adulteration till now.
Sukhrao Singh, a Jalandhar food safety officer said, "Food adulteration is a serious crime and after the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) 2006, district authorities have come down heavily on the miscreants supplying substandard, mis-branded and food unsafe for human consumption in the city."
Raids are conducted round the year to check the supply of adulterated food but there are lacunae which make it an uphill task for the health department to enforce the rules strictly. The department has three food safety officers, one incharge and a class IV employee which makes it difficult for it to tighten the noose around violators spread all over the city.
After the FSSA Act, 2006, was launched in the district, it became mandatory for all food suppliers to register with the district health office. However, the registration is to be done online and is a cumbersome task. Many food vendors are uneducated and find it difficult to understand the clauses mentioned on the online form.
"The department is also ailing due to lack of infrastructure," said Sukhrao. "We try to be prompt in conducting raids and keep the supply of adulterated food in the city at check, but after the FSSA was launched in the district in 2011, we are still to have our own office. We are dependent on the civil surgeon for providing us manpower and to top it, the department doesn't even have its own vehicle."
The process has been initiated on pen and paper but there are major shortcomings in providing proper facilities to the department which makes it difficult for officials to keep things under control, especially during the festive season when the demand for sweets and other food items is high.
Balwinder Singh, district health officer said, "Despite problems, our department is very prompt in handling adulteration-related issues. Earlier, it was hard for us to get the perpetrator punished but the recent strict stand by the Punjab and Haryana high court and the introduction of FSSA 2006, has speeded up the trial process. This will bring down the food adulteration cases in the future."