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Odisha: One In Every Five Food Items Adulterated, State Hits Rock Bottom In National Food Safety Index

Bhubaneswar: Are you planning to buy groceries from your neighbourhood Kirana store? Wait! Here is a statutory warning for the consumers in Odisha. On an average, in every 100 food samples tested during the last three years in the State, as many as 21 have been found adulterated/misbranded (means either unsafe or unguaranteed quality).

More bad news. In the Food Safety Index of 2019-20 of India, Odisha is found languishing in the bottom-10. The State was ranked at 13th among 20 states, while Gujarat topped the chart in the country.

Now Sample This

January 2019: Place: Jeypore: Spurious Spice unit busted.

February 2019: Place: Angul: Adulterated pulses, milk and red Chilipowder detected.

September 26, 2020:Place: Cuttack: Spurious tomato and chilli sauce unit busted.

The saga hit a crescendo in November this year when within a span of 15-days, half a dozen adulterated units were busted by enforcement agencies in the state.

The above timeline hints at the massive spread of the adulteration operandi across the State, and also has been a lingering issue over the years.

How Harmful Are Adulterated Food Articles For Consumers?

As per Laxmikant Behera, an expert in toxicology at the Capital Hospital, the mushrooming of adulteration units in the State and the easy access of their produce to market has posed alarming health hazards for the consumers. He said, “Spurious chilli manufacturing units mix mercuric sulphide in chilli powder to obtain that deep red colour. It will seriously affect spleen, liver and kidney. It causes hyperplasia, means enlargement of the organs, where it get stored.”

“Turmeric powder are adulterated with dyes and chalks. Ghee is adulterated with starchy products (palm oil),” said a senior Commissionerate Police official who was part of the team that busted the fake units in Cuttack recently.

Why Food Adulteration Thrives In Odisha?

An analysis shows the prime reason is poor compliance of food safety laws and lack of stringent penal actions against adulterers. Besides, poor human resources and abysmal consumer empowerment aggravate the clear and present danger.

Consider this. In the year 2018-19, the State had made out a total of 123 criminal and civil cases against adulterers, but recorded a nil conviction. Moreover, in only 3 cases penalties had been recovered that totalled to Rs 2.2 lakh.

This is not an isolated case. Data from 2016-19 revealed that Odisha had filed a total of 257 cases of food adulteration. Three years down the line, the State was still to secure any single conviction by the beginning of 2020. Moreover, Odisha during the aforesaid period had collected a meagre penalty amount of Rs 2.42 lakh.

Is The State Serious About Food Safety?

Not enthusing. Odisha’s track record in food testing and surveillance looks very pallid. When the nationwide testing of food samples had posted around 36 per cent rise between 2016 and 2019, on the contrary, Odisha had recorded a drop of 36 per cent in testing of samples. The samples tested in 2016-17 stood at 508, which tumbled to 327 in 2018-19.

Sample This Comparison Between Gujarat And Odisha

An analytical comparison between Gujarat (topper in Food Safety Index) and Odisha (13th in the Index) nails the loopholes in galore here.

*As per the Food Safety and Standard Act (FSSA) 2006, the Commissioner of Food Safety (an IAS rank Officer) will appoint designated officer in every district. These officers are then tasked with issuing licences to food units, track the cases filed against violators, analyse food testing and surveillance etc.

The shocker here is Odisha has 36 ‘part time’ such designated officers compared to 32 ‘full time’ officers in Gujarat.

*Food Safety Officers: Gujarat has nearly 6 such officers in each of the 43 districts, whereas Odisha has only 17 officers for 30 districts.

*Food Laboratories: Odisha has only 1 vis-a-vis6 in Gujarat. This is the prime reason behind a steep fall in number of samples testing during the last 3-year period.

The Result: Odisha recorded nil conviction during last 3-years (2016-19). But Gujarat had secured convictions in 22 food adulteration cases in the year 2018-19 alone.

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