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‘Kummatikka’ juice will give Mammookka diarrhoea

23,April, 2016
Kochi: The heat may have left you with no choice. But if you value your health, stay away from roadside vendors and cool bars even if you are desperate for a cool drink.

A random sampling of five popular fresh juices and drinks in and around Kochi, done by the Times of India (TOI), found that the microbial content in them were very high, as much as by several thousand times above permissible levels.

TOI team took samples of non-packaged `fresh’ cool drinks and juices from MG Road, KSRTC Boat Jetty , Hospital Road, Marine Drive and High Court Junction, covering the area on a hot summer day , last week.

The samples included iced juices of pineapple, watermelon, orange, `kulukki sarbath’ and `sambharam’ (butter milk). The samples were taken in sterilized bottles in an hour to a private National Accredi tation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories-certified (NABL) laboratory in the city.

They were tested for microbial count, total coliform bacteria and formalin, usually found in ice. The laboratory was also asked to test them in rela tion with safe drinking water parameters and check for unusual difference that could be considered dangerous for human consumption.

The results showed that `kulukki sarbath’ had 8,700 microbes in one ml against the limit of `less than 50′, which is the permissible limit. In the case of pineapple juice, this was 9,300ml, watermelon 7,500 ml, with orange juice showing the highest level at 9,800ml.The total coliform bacteria per ml was over 1,200 in case of all samples except `sambharam’, which had around 990. The absence of `formalin’ in samples was a big surprise as all of them were iced drinks.The presence of formalin, used to preserve fish, in ice used by unscrupulous cool bars had led to annual raids by the food safety department.

According to food safety of ficials, this could be because of the awareness and hygiene campaign carried out by them at ice manufacturing units."We had campaigned hard to ensure strict hygiene in ice factories," said K V Shibu, assistant commissioner of food safety, Ernakulam. However, he added that the situation was not under control. "There are small vendors who go around in bicycles selling ice. These are sometimes used to preserve fish. That’s probably why you find e-coli in juices," he said.

While there are no cases against ice manufacturers, food safety officials said that they were planning to inspect and monitor the entire sale of ice.

The department has also initiated a drive to collect samples of juices and other soft drinks from several areas in the city and send them for testing.

"Maximum samples will be collected in the next two days.We’ll continue the drive till the end of this month. We will proceed against all violators," Shibu said.

"In tests done on packaged drinking water, the department had found the presence of e.coli at a very high level. A criminal case was registered against a popular drinking water supplier," he said.

An `invitation’ for Hepatitis A, rotavirus

Kochi: What does the presence of microbes and e-coli in the juice mean to your health?

"This can happen if people making and serving the drinks have not bothered about hygiene. If they are suffering or recovering from typhoid, cholera or jaundice, then it could be dangerous for those consuming the drink," said senior gastroenterologist and IMA Cochin secretary Dr Rajeev Jayadevan.

Microbes in drinks could lead to Hepatitis A or being infected by rotavirus. "You could end up with severe diarrhoea. Jaundice is also a major threat. Some people have severe abdominal pain which resemble an appendicitis attack," he said.

Lack of hygiene, failure in washing fruits properly and the dumping of faecal matter into waterbodies are the major reasons for the presence of microbes and e-coli in juices tested by TOI.

Dr Rajeev opined that people should drink water when they were thirsty instead of juices. "I would advise people to eat fruits which is much safer for the stomach and general health."

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