The Punjab and Haryana High Court had directed all district courts in the state to submit a copy of the order under which conviction of a person, found guilty of selling and distributing adulterated food items, was carried out. This order has increased the conviction rate of food adulterators in the district.
A source in the district health department said that nearly 20% cases, pertaining to food adulteration, have been dealt with successfully in district courts. Earlier, the rate of conviction was slow and the cases used to drag on for a long time, but the recent stricture by the High Court has speeded up the trial process.
The source added that in the 20% cases, the conviction rate was nearly 85% and, if this situation continues, the incidence of food adulteration may come down in the state. However, many cases get delayed because the samples, collected by the health department, are sent to the testing facility in Chandigarh and it takes nearly 2 to 3 months to receive the status of the samples.
District health officials have come down heavily on food adulterators in the city and special drives are being conducted to control the supply of adulterated food items in the district in view of the festive season, said Dr RL Bassan, civil surgeon, Jalandhar.
He added, "I have held meetings with prominent sweet shop and bakery owners in the district and have guided them to maintain proper hygiene and supply quality food to the customers. It was also made clear to them that anyone found violating the food safety Act will be dealt with strictly, according to the law."
The food safety and standards Act 2006 was implemented in the district in November 2010. Since then, the health officials have kept a constant vigil on the supply of food in the district. Frequent raids are carried out to keep the adulterators at bay in the district.
According to the Act, any person, who is engaged in the business of supplying food items in the district, found violating rules, is issued a notice after a sample collected from his shop fails to pass the test.
After that, a period of 90 days is given to him to clarify his position and then action is taken against the person according to the law.
Minor cases invite a fine of a minimum of 25,000 with no fixed upper limit and major violation results in a prison term after conviction by courts.
The number of food adulteration cases increase during the festive season. During festivals, many sweet shop owners use bright colours to decorate their sweets which, at times, are in violation of the food safety Act. "Sweets, prepared specially from milk, have greater chances of adulteration, and we always keep an eye on sweets during the festival season," said Balwinder Singh, district health officer.
"Even during the ongoing festive season, we have been carrying out frequent raids and, during the last two months, nearly 40 food samples have been taken from various outlets and we are waiting on their test results. Our teams are always on the alert and we are also spreading awareness among the public against food adulteration to curb this malpractice," he added.