Renu Sud Sinha
The huge increase in the detection of food adulteration cases across India — from 15 per cent in 2012-2013 to 28 per cent in 2018-2019, as per the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) — should be a sign of worry and serious concern, but food safety experts view it differently.
Ashish Bahuguna, former chairperson, FSSAI, says, “Adulteration has been taking place since millennia. The other way to look at it is that as awareness is rising, more cases are being reported.” Not only awareness, the ambit and definition of adulteration have also expanded. FSSAI defines it as “the addition or subtraction of any substance to or from food so that the natural composition and quality of food substance is affected”.
“It can be accidental or deliberate, substandard (but not unsafe) or a health hazard, and the penalties are also fixed accordingly,” explains Bahuguna.
Pushpa Girimaji, a specialist in consumer law and safety, says as the Supreme Court has termed not just the right to food but to safe food a fundamental right, food safety has emerged as a major challenge. “Particularly, after Covid-19, awareness has increased about the benefits of eating minimally processed foods.”