The festive season has increased the risk of adulterated food and the health department has also issued advisories to avoid consumption of sweets during Diwali. However, the activism by officials to keep a check on the sweet makers does not reflect on the statistics.
Around 50 samples were collected ahead of the festive season in 2012. Four of them were found substandard and there were convictions in all four cases. The rate of failed samples increased ahead of Diwali in 2013 and 15 samples were found adulterated. However, only seven sweet makers were convicted and eight cases are still pending.
This year, health officials seem to be taking things slow as it has conducted only two raids in 2014. In the first raid, the health department officials seized 400 containers of milk products which were found substandard.
In the second raid, officials seized 225 kg of 'patisa' from a local sweet shop at Paras Ram Nagar, Bathinda, whose report is still awaited.
However, the new law has made some difference and the number of food adulteration cases has increased since 2011 after an amendment to the law was passed.
Since the amendment to the Food Safety Act was passed in December 2011, the number of cases where sweets were found adulterated was three. The figure increased to eight in 2012, then 23 in 2013 and 27 till now from January 2014.
In the past three years, a total of `6.2 lakh has been charged as fine from the culprits of food adulteration, out of which, more than `1.5 lakh relates to only 2013.
With Diwali round the corner, the sweet makers are making every effort to meet the rising demands of customers. Shopkeepers are stocking up sealed sweets for sale on festivals but the freshness and quality of the products being prepared in unhygienic conditions is dubious.
In the festive season of 2013, the most commonly adulterated sweets were chamcham, petha, khoya and roasted barfi, which are also the most common sweets during festivals.
"We raid sweetshops so that sweet makers stop adulteration. When they are found guilty, they have to pay a fine but they make more profit during the festive season than the fine the government charges and hence, there is no deterrence," said Amrit Pal Sodhi, food safety officer.
"It is advisable to avoid eating khoya products during festivals as the adulteration starts several days in advance. Consuming even a small amount of adulterated sweets can disturb one's health and hence, if one really wants to have traditional sweets, they can go for sweets made of besan and other material", Sodhi added.