India has to put up a tough fight against the many-headed monster of corruption. The rot of greed has permeated every sphere of our lives, including the food that we consume. In their greed to make fast money, food makers are now resorting to infusing heavy toxins in their products. They make their quick bucks, and we, the people, line up at the doctors’ clinics for the myriad diseases that bog us down.
Tests conducted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India FSSAI found that the five states — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh — account for more than 90% of food fraud in India.
India is the world’s worst food violator, according to Food Sentry, the global food source monitoring company. In an alarming trend, more than 1/3 of raw food adulteration occurs due to presence of excessive or illegal pesticides, pathogen contamination and filth or insanitary conditions. Reportedly, most violated foods are raw or minimally processed, including seafood, vegetables, fruits, spices, dairy products, meats and grains.
Milk, as reported by IndiaSpend, is one of the most-commonly adulterated food items in India, followed by oil and eggs. In 2012, FSSAI found that more than two-thirds of Indian milk is adulterated with items like salt, detergent etc.
In June 2015, the Uttar Pradesh Food and Drug Administration tested Delhi-based milk producer Mother Dairy’s samples and found detergent in it. The dairy producer took no time to contest the claims and said that the samples collected by the regulator were not tested. The co-operative said the test was done on “loose milk samples collected at village level” which were yet to be accepted by Mother Dairy’s.
Another dairy product, the innocent-looking ice-cream, is major health threats too. Quite often, ice-cream makers use non-permitted colours, artificial sweeteners and dubious jelly agents which don’t meet the set Indian standards. Our kids continue to have dollops of this dessert, notwithstanding all the knowledge about harmful ingredients.
The non-profit body Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) opened a can of worms in 2003, when it declared colas sold in India contained pesticide residue. As people took to the streets to protests against the cola giants Pepsico and Coca Cola, the two MNCs vehemently refuted the charges. Their tall claims fell flat a year later, when the Joint Parliamentary Committee supported the findings of CSE.
Unlike India, Europe and America follow high food standards. But numerous products that are banned in EU are still sold in India as popular food. The aerated citrus flavoured drinks Mountain Dew is banned in over 100 countries, including the EU. But we continue to down it our throats, as inspired by a popular Bollywood star in its TVC.
In a 2010, national new daily, The Hindu, reported that the honey sold by reputed Indian brands Dabur, Himalaya and Baidyanath was contaminated with harmful anti-biotics. The strict food safety regulations disallow Indian-made honey to be sold abroad.
The list can go on. Bribery in most cases solves the issue, and sadly, we continue to ingest harmful food due to lax food regulations. What we need is, a stringent food regulatory body that is independent of all red tapes. After all, food safety will ensure our next generations grow free from toxins.