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Food Adulteration: Dying a slow death

February 3, 2018

Are you even aware that you are dying a slow death? And that includes all those in your family. You stand more concerned about food inflation, the price of petrol, how the government is performing and who wins the next cricket match but do you even care if you are told that what you buy and eat DAILY is slow poisoning your body and you are paying for it. Literally!

We are referring to Adulteration and the use of harmful pesticides in all the food that we consume!

In March this year, the Delhi High Court acting on a report on food adulteration prepared and submitted by an Expert Committee, observed that it was ‘alarmed’ with the findings of the report that stated alarming levels of harmful pesticide residues in food content consumed daily by the citizens of Delhi. The bench headed by Justice BD Ahmed has asked the Delhi government to set up a ‘Pesticides Residue Management Cell’ under the control of the Food Commissioner, within four weeks. The court took a critical view of the role or lack of it by the Food Safety and Standards Authority.

The government has enough toothless bodies that are understaffed and do not have adequate freedom to operate across state borders. And with lack of government pressure and priority, these bodies are rarely seen active from seizure through till prosecution.

The problem is widespread and increasing by the day and that is because WE, the citizen do not really care. There are protest rallies when a film is released that causes our religious sentiment to be hurt, there are rallies if a politician is added or removed, there are rallies if there is a murder in the neighborhood but have you heard of any rally or candlelight vigil for the slow murder of our near and dear ones?

Have we put adequate pressure on the bureaucrats and politicians who govern us, to get out of their air conditioned rooms and take to the streets to check this very dangerous menace? A murderer kills one or two people and that makes headlines but where is the press when the entire country is being made to suffer on a daily basis?

The problem with our society is that we don’t like a problem to happen in front of us. If someone is killed but not in our neighborhood, its fine. If there is no electricity in some part of India, it is fine, if there is no drinking water available to a certain section of society its fine, as long as it is not in front of us or affecting us directly. But this DOES affect us directly, so why the apathy?

Adulteration is behind-the-scenes-killer and we are allowing it to happen right under our very noses. Are we okay in feeding our children with milk that is mixed with synthetic milk that contains urea, caustic soda and vegetable oil? Buy them some cheap ice-cream that contains washing powder? Give them sweets that contain arsenic compounds?

Who is the real culprit? The Adulterer or the society that allows the adulterer to do what he does? The laws are all there. As usual it’s the implementation and prosecution that is found wanting.

Yes, if you do catch someone, once in a while, you send him to jail for three years i.e. after he gets prosecuted in a trial that will last for 10-15 years or so. What’s he got to lose given the gains that are there? With no pressure from the authorities, it’s a low risk game for the adulterer with low hanging fruits of profit. So why would he stop?

When was the last time you heard of a raid to check food adulteration? And what were the authorities doing since the last raid? Why are raids not conducted on a daily basis? During the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission took action and the result was several seizures of cash, liquor and drugs. It may not be enough but it did put pressure. The point is why is the Food Commissioner’s office in every state not conducting raids on a daily/weekly basis? What is stopping them?

Unless we the citizens get together with civil society and take the streets to force the government to act, there will be no action and we along with our children will continue to die a slow death. The irony is that even the authorities and politicians face the same problem! But who cares?

Common Adulterants in Food:

Are you aware of the adulterants that are added to our food? Take a look. 

Butter and Cream:
Anatta is added to give a yellow tinge to butter. A byproduct of beef fat called oleomargarine is added in large quantities to butter. Cream is adulterated with gelatin and formaldehyde is added to increase the shelf life. Vanaspati is added to pure ghee and butter.
Ice Cream:
Washing powder is regularly added to add volume to ice cream.

Milk, Paneer, Khoya:
Urea, Starch and washing powder is added.

Tumeric, Coriander powder, Red Chilies:
Tumeric is mixed with metanil yellow, colored chalk powder, aniline dyes; wood powder is added to both turmeric and coriander, while red chilies is mixed with Red color dye, Sudan Red III color and brick dust.

Mustard:
Argemone seeds are regularly added.

Spice Powder:
Barn is added along with synthetic colors.

Cinnamon Bark:
Cassia bark is added.

Cumin seeds:
Grass seeds colored with charcoal is mixed.

Pulses: Moong, Chana etc
Lead Chromate is added on a regular basis. Kesari dal is added to Besan and yellow dal.

Tea:
Iron filings, colored tea leaves, used.

Coffee:
Chicory is mixed with the powder.

Wheat Flour:
Chalk powder, barn dust and sand is added.

Confectionary
Colours that have a harmful effect on the body are added to confectionary items that children consume on a regular basis and they include copper, Prussian blue, arsenic compounds, chrome yellow etc.

Vegetables:
Copper salts are added to color the vegetables with green.

Vegetable Oils:
Castor oil, Mineral oil, Argemone oil, Kranaja oil is added.

 

If after reading the above, you go back to leading your usual life, then do not blame the adulterer for his criminal act on your near and dear ones. We are allowing him to get away with it.

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