Fewer checks for adulteration in Rajasthan raise food safety concerns

According to data from Rajasthan’s health department, FSOs collected 51,953 samples across the state in these eight years when they should have collected 117,120 as per norms. The norm is that every FSO should collect at least 20 samples every month. There are 61 FSOs in the state.
If a food item does not meet specified standards, it is labelled substandard(Representational Photo)
If a food item does not meet specified standards, it is labelled substandard(Representational Photo)
Published on Mar 05, 2019 12:49 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Jaipur | By

Food safety officers (FSOs) in Rajasthan are not checking items for adulteration as much as they should be, putting people at risk of eating unsafe food. Between May 2011 and January 2019, they collected fewer than half the samples they should have collected to ensure unsafe food items are out of market.

According to data from the health department, FSOs collected 51,953 samples across the state in these eight years when they should have collected 117,120 as per norms. The norm is that every FSO should collect at least 20 samples every month. There are 61 FSOs in Rajasthan.

Samples were taken during major festivals, such as Holi and Diwali, and special campaigns launched once or twice in a year. This year, a campaign was launched from February 11 to 20.

Food safety commissioner Dr VK Mathur said, “Due to meetings and other works, FSOs are not able to take 20 samples per month, due to which collection of samples has been less than the norms. Now FSOs will take regular samples and meet the target.”

From August 2011 to January 2019, the food safety officers had collected 51,953 samples by conducting 174,846 inspections across the state. Of the collected samples, 6,806 samples were found substandard, 3097 mis-branded and 1,726 unsafe, the data shows.

If a food item does not meet specified standards, it is labelled substandard. If it is offered or promoted with false, misleading or deceptive claims on the label or through advertisement or sold by a name that belongs to another article of food or not labelled in accordance with the requirement of the Food Safety and Standards Act, it is called mis-branded. Food items are unsafe if they are unfit for human consumption.

From August 2011 to January 2019, FSOs took 22,424 samples of milk and milk products of which 22360 were analysed. They found 4207 samples as substandard, 425 as misbranded, 736 as unsafe and 32 as contaminated with extraneous matter. Samples declared unsafe were due to addition of foreign fat, excess neutralisers (carbonate/bicarbonate).

The state has 11 food laboratories at Jaipur, Ajmer, Alwar, Kota, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Banswara, Bikaner, Bharatpur, Churu and Jalore. Currently there are 12 food analysts in the state, while two more will join soon.

Dr Mathur said during the campaign against adulteration in all the 33 districts from February 11 to 28, large quantities of substandard dry fruits, foul-smelling sweets, expired and fake branded besan (gram flour), ghee (clarified butter), oil, flour, masala (ground spices), adulterated edible items, and polished coarse grains were seized and destroyed.

“During the campaign, 2,800kg coloured saunf (fennel), 70kg ghee, 4,340kg black pepper, 2,352kg rajma (kidney beans), more than 100 cartons of sauces, more than 1,400kg mixed pickles, more than 2,500kg of cottage cheese, 32,000kg pickles, at least 1,350kg expired coconut powder, 788kg blended cheese and 4,500kg besan, among other items, were destroyed and seized.”

According to the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and Rules and Regulations, 2011, there is provision of penalty up to 5 lakh in a cases of substandard food articles; the case is presented in the court of additional district magistrate.

Cases of misbranded food articles are also presented in the court of additional district magistrate and there is provision of penalty up to 3 lakh. Cases of unsafe food articles are presented in the court of judicial magistrate in which there is provision of penalty up to 10 lakh and imprisonment from 6 months to life sentence, the official said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    P Srinivasan is Principal Correspondent and working with Hindustan Times since 2001. He writes on health, agriculture and development.

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