Near Diwali, this eating capital of the country is abuzz with activity of the gastronomic kind, with adulteration changing the flavor of traditional sweets.
The city of foodies, which loves to gorge on and share the sweet stuff around the festival, will have to look at the ingredients with caution. Cashing in on the penchant of Amritsar for savory delights, a few unscrupulous elements have carried on with the malicious trend of putting spurious 'khoya' (dried whole milk) and adulterated or synthetic milk in most sweet preparations, earning the city the dubious distinction of recording maximum cases of food adulteration in Punjab.
A raiding team from the district health department seized more than 100 quintal spurious-khoya sweets from a shop at Preet Vihar, Mustafabad, in the outskirts of Amritsar. A few days ago, it had seized five-quintal spurious 'khoya' from another sweetshop along the city's boundary. The health department is shaken into action only around the festival season, while it should be checking food round the year. "Raids are conducted round the year indeed," said district health officer (DHO) Dr Shiv Karan Singh Kahlon, adding: "Four food safety officers and a few class-4 employees are all I have on my team. We need more class-4 workers at least."
He said the team conducted four to five regular raids a month and also special crackdowns based on input. The sweet samples collected were sent to Chandigarh for analysis, and the makers whose samples failed were penalised, the DHO added.
However, he said he had no data on the number of adulteration cases in court, though he added that the department had sanction for legal proceeding in 70 cases. Dr Kahlon said that of the 730 food samples taken since 2010, 245 had failed the purity test.
The samples were collected and tested under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act until Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006, came into force in 2011. "After that, 664 samples were collected, 446 under the PFA Act and 198 under new law. Of these, 133 failed the test," said Dr Kahlon.
In 2012, of the 521 samples collected, 95 turned out to be impure. It was the case with 291 samples out of 713 in 2013; and 227 of 512 in 2014, so far.
Year Samples collected Samples failed
2010 730 245
2011 664 133
2012 521 95
2013 713 291
2014 512 227
Raiding team strength: One district health officer, four food safety officers, and a few Class-4 employees
Required: More drivers and Class-4 employees
Laboratories available: 1 (only in Chandigarh)
Court cases: Sanction for 70