Adulteration: Northern region takes the cake
New Delhi, March 13
Of the food samples tested in recent past, 7 per cent were found to be adulterated. On an average, 7.43 per cent of all milk products, edible oils, vegetable, sweet and other food articles examined by health departments from 2006 to 2008, were impure, exposing the levels of food adulteration in India 56 years after the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act was passed. Ironically, the government has no data on food impurities for the last and current year.
Most worrisome is the laxity of state governments on the prosecution front. Proceedings against adulterators have not been launched in 51 per cent of the cases. Whereas in 2008, 4,096 of the 63,035 food samples examined were been found to be adulterated, prosecutions are underway in just 2,120 cases.
As per the 2008 data, the progressive northern states are the worst on food quality front: with 19 per cent of all samples in Punjab, 20 per cent in Himachal, 11 per cent in Haryana, 15 per cent in Jammu and Kashmir, 18.19 per cent in Jharkhand and 13.29 per cent in Uttarakhand adulterated.
Data submitted to Lok Sabha by Health Ministry yesterday shows that even Chandigarh, the fourth best city to live in as per a CII survey, is not clean on food adulteration. Nine per cent of all samples tested here in 2008 were impure; the only saving grace is that the authorities here have launched proceedings under the PFA Act all the 10 detected cases (out of 121). Haryana, too, is faring well on prosecution front, having booked the culprits in all 328 cases (out of 3,198) reported in 2008.
Himachal, Punjab and J&K, however, are not working seriously to stem the rot, having proceeded against in much fewer cases than reported. In Himachal, 141 samples out of 713 were found impure, but proceedings are on in just 47 cases.
Among other states, Chattisgarh leads the pack on food adulteration - 40 per cent of all food samples here tested positive for adulteration in 2007; the percentage dropped to 23.16 in 2008. It is still the highest in India.
Lowest food impurity levels were found in Arunachal Pradesh (one per cent of all samples), Kerala (2.58 per cent) and Nagaland (3.25 per cent).
The issue also came up for discussions in Question Hour yesterday, with Minister of State, Health Dinesh Trivedi putting the entire onus of correction on the yet-to-be operationalised Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) of India. The FSSA Act was passed in 2008 to cover the entire food sector, which PFA Act never quite managed to cover.
Even the genetically modified Bt Brinjal, the minister said, would be covered and regulated under the new authority. The observation came when MP Jyoti Mirdha, asked why GM food - Bt Brinjal - should not be treated as “adulterated”, home as it is to a foreign gene.