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Stale fish seized at Palayam market

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Joint raid finds some varieties of fish with worms inside being sold

As much as 150 kilograms of stale fish were seized from the Connemara market at Palayam in a joint raid on Monday conducted by the Health wing of the city Corporation, the Food Safety Department, and the Fisheries department.

With the fish vendors putting up a stiff resistance to the raid, the officials had to seek the help of the police to complete the proceedings.

Tuna and Seer fish

The officials seized stale fish of tuna (Choora) and seerfish (Neymeen) varieties from six vendors. Most of it were at least four to five days old.

Worms were found in some of the seized fish. The vendors claimed that the stale fish were not for sale but were kept to be dried.

Claim refuted

This claim was refuted by the officials who also seized a batch of stale fish that was cut and kept aside to be taken to a restaurant and a toddy shop.

The fish vendors put up resistance to the raid, accusing the officials of taking away even the fresh fish.

“We had requested the presence of Food Safety and Fisheries department officials because they have the expertise to detect stale fish using special strips and other mechanisms. This would be convincing for the fish vendors too. Still, there was resistance from the fish vendors as the raid progressed. We have not conducted raids in the Connemara fish market for a long time, mainly due to the chance of resistance. Now, we will conduct frequent checks to ensure that fresh fish is sold. It has to be said that there were some vendors who were selling only fresh fish,” said Palayam circle Health Inspector G. Manoj, who led the raid.

According to Health wing officials, the raids were conducted following complaints the Corporation was getting in recent weeks.

Last week, a person registered a complaint at the Corporation office, saying that his children had been affected with food poisoning after consuming fish bought from the market.

Complaint

Another complaint regarding quality of fish was received by the food safety authority, citing the exact locations of the vendors selling stale fish.

Following the raid by the authorities, the officials removed the stale fish, while some of the samples were sent for testing to check for the presence of formalin.

Further action, including imposing fine on the vendors responsible, would be taken based on the test result, the officials said.

Categories: NEWS

Is Indian table salt safe to use?

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01/8The compostion of salt!

Recently, the table salt came under the scrutiny of social media and regulatory bodies, when Shankar Gupta, Chairman of Godhum Grains & Farm Products claimed that Ferrocyanide levels were alarmingly high in reputed Indian salt brands. To which, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) reacted and refuted the concerns . Scroll below to know more about Potassium Ferrocyanide and the controversy.

02/8What is Potassium Ferrocyanide?

It is a non-toxic inorganic compound that is potassium salt and forms lemon-yellow monoclinic crystals.

03/8Why this concern was raised?

The concerns rose only after Shiv Shankar Gupta, Chairman of Godhum Grains & Farm Products recently claimed that Potassium Ferrocyanide levels were alarmingly high in reputed Indian salt brands. According to Gupta, a test by American West Analytical Laboratories (AWAL) has revealed that Potassium Ferrocyanide levels are an alarmingly high in Sambhar Refined Salt at 4.71 mg per kg, at 1.85 mg per kg in Tata Salt and 1.90 mg per kg in Tata Salt Lite.

04/8Why is Potassium Ferrocyanide used?

As per a tweet by FSSAI, "Ferrocyanides are used as anti-caking agents in processing of salt and are safe for consumption. Test reports quoted in media have shown its presence well within the limit of 10 mg/kg, as specified by FSSAI. This is less than 14 mg/kg specified by Codex (International Food Standards)."

05/8The controversy

According to the American West Analytical Laboratories, AWAL does not communicate any information to third parties concerning work performed at the laboratory without written permission.

06/8 What companies have to say?

In an official statement, Tata Salt said that its products are safe and harmless. They have called the allegations false and misleading and said that India is one among many countries including the USA, European Union, Australia and New Zealand that has allowed the use of PFC in salt.

07/8What is the right amount of PFC allowed?

The level allowed by FSSAI, an independent statutory authority, under Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the lowest among these jurisdictions (10 mg per kg).

08/8Verdict

The use of PFC is allowed in salt and is safe and harmless to the human body when consumed as per approved levels. This is clearly declared in the list of many reputed salt brands in a manner prescribed by the regulations.

Categories: NEWS

Food safety concerns

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India faces grave dangers as unprecedented levels of GM genes have been found in our foods. The time for labelling GMOs is over; Governments must simply ban them

In Rottenseed! Cottonseed, Alzheimer’s and Your Brain, nutritionist Bruce Semon traces the rise of Alzheimer’s to a toxin in cottonseed that goes to the brain and randomly ties up important structures there. Cottonseed, a byproduct of cotton farming, contains poison but is routinely fed to farm animals, poultry and fish, from where it enters their flesh and reaches human beings when they eat this meat. Dr Semon, the first writer to trace the link between toxic cottonseeds and human health, describes his experiments on feeding cottonseed to animals.

In India, some farmers are illicitly extracting cottonseed oil and selling cheaply to vegetable oil dealers, who mix it with edible oils and sell to unwary consumers. In the past decade, cotton farming has risen sharply under the influence of GM cotton, peddled by multinational firms, increasing chances of the even more lethal GM cottonseed oil entering the human and animal food chain. In 2018, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) detected BT cottonseed contamination in edibles oils. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has so far done little to contain this adulteration. The Government must ban cottonseed for human or animal feed and warn against its consumption.

Cottonseed is also implicated in infertility. Male and female infertility has often been attributed to hormonal problems but Semon argues that cottonseed is loaded with toxic chemicals. It killed many animals to which it was fed, which led to studies on just how much cottonseed could be fed to animals without killing them.

A major cottonseed toxin is “gossypol.” Researchers have known this since 1950 but no one made it public. China is supposed to have examined gossypol as a possible form of birth control for men (it interrupts sperm formation). In women, gossypol causes failure to ovulate. Other harmful effects cannot be ruled out.

Indeed, India faces grave dangers as unprecedented levels of GM genes have been found in Indian foods. CSE detected unprecedented levels of genetically modified genes in Indian foods, both imported and indigenous. CSE’s Pollution Monitoring Laboratory found 32 per cent of 65 food products purchased randomly from retail outlets in Delhi-NCR, Punjab and Gujarat, to be GM-positive. Among imported samples, 80 per cent were GM-positive.

Scientist Amit Khurana said the CSE study revealed that in their biosafety submission to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, Monsanto/Bayer lied that “BT cottonseed oil is equivalent to natural cottonseed oil” and contains no GM traces. Moreover, the edible oil companies, that used transgenic BT cottonseed without regulatory approval, also endangered public health. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has often relied on Monsanto’s printed biosafety submissions.

Dr KR Kranthi, former chief, Central Institute for Cotton Research, warned of edible oil contamination: “The possible routes of BT cotton protein entering the food chain are through human consumption of un-refined cottonseed oil, in which traces of BT protein may be present with particulate seed residues or through consumption of meat or milk of the animals which are fed on BT cotton seed-cake.”

Biosafety expert Dr Vandana Shiva said, “Illegal GMO Roundup Ready BT cotton has spread in farmers’ fields with no action from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC). Illegal GMO foods are flooding India’s markets with no action from FSSAI. The Government is supposed to protect its citizens from harm and illegal actions. How long will it protect the GMO industry and allow Indians farmers and citizens to be harmed?”

Dr Gilles-Eric Seralini, who was hounded by multinational companies and their media acolytes until the French courts penalised his attackers for defamation, explained the effects of ingesting GM over a five-ten year period, “We have already demonstrated on mammals that BT toxins attack mucosal and epithelial cells, inducing heavy long term chronic diseases.” GMOs and pesticides, he says, are a biological arsenal causing diseases from cancers to farmers’ suicides.

The Indian Government did not conduct any independent scientific study before adopting Monsanto/Bayer’s GMOs, as pointed out by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on science and technology (Report 301 on GM crops and their effects). FSSAI’s GM labelling rule has been lambasted as too lenient and corporate-driven. A scientific study in the Journal of International Immunopharmacology (August 2018) found that the BT protein, present in BT crops, causes immune reactions and triggers food allergy and intestinal inflammation in mice.

Meanwhile, several scientific studies, including one published by the Public Library of Science (July 2013), have found compelling evidence that the DNA of genetically modified foods can enter the human bloodstream and cause many health problems. Blood samples of over 1,000 participants were collected and “the results indicated that meal-derived DNA fragments (which were large enough to carry complete genes) can avoid degradation and ultimately enter the human body’s circulation system.” Researchers said these are actually stretches of DNA large enough to pass complete genes of GMO plants (like soy, corn or canola oil) to humans.

In some blood samples, the relative concentration of plant DNA was higher than human DNA. The researchers said that participants with inflammatory bowel disease and auto-immune disease had the highest concentration of transgenic gene. Previous studies show that GMOs can change the beneficial bacteria in the small intestine and trigger auto-immune diseases and inflammation, making it difficult to absorb the real nutrients in food. These findings vindicate the claims of independent scientists and researchers who have long warned the regulatory bodies and biotech industry that GMO genes can be transferred from dairy and animal products to people.

After prolonged resistance, the European Food Safety Authority was forced to admit that DNA from food (GMO or non-GMO) could end up in animal tissues and milk and other dairy products consumed by people. The GMO companies are strenuously resisting the findings and investing millions of dollars to hide their toxic GMOs and defeat the GMO labelling movement, even as people eating these hidden toxins are getting sicker and sicker.

Many scientists and activists now feel that the time for labelling GMOs is over; Governments must simply ban them. This is also the time for the Government of India to order a scientific study of the diseases (cancer, diabetes, auto-immune, organ failure) that followed introduction of the Green Revolution. The artificial self-sufficiency wrought by the chemical fertiliser and pesticide-based agriculture has long devastated the health of animals, humans and the very soil.

(The writer is Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library; the views expressed are personal)

Categories: NEWS

FSSAI nod to powder for safe mango ripening

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The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has given its stamp of approval to ‘En-Ripe’, an ethylene gas encapsulated powder developed by a city-based startup, as a safe method for artificial ripening of mangoes.

The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) declared it acetylene-free in its report last year, said Pramod Kumar Mamidi Reddy, director of Heighten Innovative Solutions that manufactures the innovative product. “It ripens fruits without any dangerous chemical effects, and will be a game-changer for farmers producing mangoes and bananas in particular,” he said at a press conference here on Tuesday.

The powder contains vegetable starch extracted from bananas, coir pith and activated charcoal to attract moisture for ethylene release.

“One sachet costing ₹25 would be enough for ripening 20 kgs of fruits. All it costs is 50 paise per kg and farmers can themselves ripen and sell the fruits at a higher price in the market rather than depending on traders,” said Madhava Reddy Maddi, managing director of the startup.

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‘1/3 of food samples tested in 2018-19 found adulterated’

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NEW DELHI: Almost one third of the food samples tested in 2018-19 were found adulterated or substandard with Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu leading the list where nearly half of the samples failed the test, according to government data. The share of failed samples during the two previous years was nearly 25%.

In a written reply, Union food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan told Lok Sabha on Tuesday that between 2016-17 and 2018-19, about 8,100 people were convicted for committing such offences and food safety authorities across the states had collected nearly Rs 43.65 crore fine from the offenders. He quoted the data supplied by the state governments. The tests are carried out on the parameters set by the food safety regulator, FSSAI.

According to ministry’s data, over 20,000 out of the total 65,000 samples failed the test in 2018-19. During 2017-18, over 24,000 samples out of 99,000 did not conform to the norms and during 2016-17, the number of failed samples was more than 18,000 out of the total 78,000 that were tested.

To put a check on the adulteration of food items, the government has also introduced the Consumer Protection Bill which mandates harsh penalty and even imprisonment for such offences.

Categories: NEWS

Students get sick as school kitchens go unhygienic

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Two instances of shigella bacterial infection reported in two weeks from different districts in the State

The government and aided schools in the State may be getting a high-tech makeover, but the kitchens serving free food to children will have to go a long way in reaching passable hygiene standards.

The departments of Health and Food Safety do not have much of a say in ensuring hygiene in schools though two instances of shigella bacterial infection were reported in two weeks in different districts.

Filthy water source

Over 40 children of West Lower Primary School, Keezhppayyur, in Kozhikode district were hospitalised on June 21 after they complained of vomiting and diarrhoea. The presence of shigella bacteria in their stool samples and the subsequent testing of water samples proved that the water source used for cooking lunch had been contaminated.

More than 90 children of the Government Lower Primary School, Eruva, near Kayamkulam in Alappuzha district, were taken ill with suspected food poisoning on July 5. The presence of shigella bacteria was found in the stool samples of at least two students there too.

It is left to the education committee in local bodies to inspect the hygiene standards of the food preparation in schools in their jurisdiction ahead of the beginning of the academic year. Health Department officials, however, pointed out that the inspection and subsequent certification were often completed in a hurry as most of them would be preoccupied with other public health campaigns. The number of schools within the local body limits could be higher too. Most often, only random sampling of food and water was being done.

In most of the schools, the kitchen and dining halls are found to be located in congested sheds. The areas for cleaning vessels and waste disposal too are in a similar condition. Though the government had mandated setting up biogas plants in schools, many schools were found to have purchased portable units just for the sake of it.

The Food Safety Department, meanwhile, has the powers to declare only packaged food items as contaminated.

MoU for testing samples

Education Department officials, however, claimed that the State government in February last year had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Cashew Export Council of India laboratory for the testing of food and water samples in schools.

Food samples are subjected to microbiological and chemical testing. The lab had found the presence of E-coli bacteria, coliform bacteria and mold fungus in 14 of the 460 food samples collected from across 460 schools in different districts soon after the MoU was signed.

It was reported that contamination occurred before serving the meal and through the water used for cooking it. The free lunch scheme is being implemented in 12,327 schools and the inspection had so far covered 8,000 schools. The rest would be covered soon, an official in charge of the scheme in the office of the Directorate of General Education told The Hindu on Wednesday.

Categories: NEWS

How safe is street food in Hyderabad?

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Hyderabad and other cities in Telangana have not been able to meet minimum food safety standards

Street food vendors selling samosa, fried chicken and other food items in Hyderabad.

Hyderabad: How safe is the food served by street food vendors in Hyderabad? Does the State’s capital have a proper ecosystem in terms of infrastructure, trained personnel and food testing laboratories to ensure safe food is accessible to public?

According to the first State Food Safety Index (SFSI) released by the Food and Safety Standard of India (FSAAI) about a month ago, Hyderabad and other cities in the State have not been able to meet the minimum food safety standards and need to do a lot more in the aspect of food safety.

To galvanise States to work towards ensuring safe food for the public, FSSAI had developed State Food Safety Index (SFSI), designed to measure the performance of each State on five parameters of food safety. The parameters based on which each State was judged included Human Resources and Institutional Arrangements, Compliance, Food Testing Infrastructure and Surveillance, Training and Capacity Building and Consumer Empowerment.

Except for Tamil Nadu and Kerala, none of the other South Indian States including TS and AP managed to get a mention in the SFSI rankings. The rankings were based on total scores that each State had secured in the five different parameters. While Goa, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Kerala scored over 75 points out of 100, the SFSI score for TS was 40 while AP secured 57 points.

Clean Street Food Hubs needed

To ensure food safety, the food regulator recommended individual States to introduce innovative measures like ‘Clean Street Food Hub’ and ‘Eat Right Campus’ in cities.

Recently, the Golden Temple Street in Amritsar had managed to get recognition as a ‘Clean Street Food Hub’ following certification from third-party audits and a series of training sessions for street food vendors aimed at improving quality and safety of food. Such hubs and clusters where street food is available will be certified by FSSAI once the vendors have met the prescribed parameters to ensure food served is clean and hygienic.

Eat Right Campus

Based on rating on well-defined benchmarks on food safety, and hygiene, food safety management, healthy diets, promotion of local and seasonal food and awareness generation, the food regulator introduced the concept of ‘Eat Right Campus’. Recently, several educational institutions such as IIT Gandhinagar and Roorkie received this tag from FSSAI.

Categories: NEWS

Contaminated food

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Despite strict protocols, govt study shows 30 per cent of samples have failed the safety test and are adulterated

Just when we thought that food safety was finally an achievable target, what with laws and guidelines becoming more stringent and consumers demanding reassurance of the origin and processing, comes a reality check. According to government data, almost one-third of the food samples tested across the country in 2018-19 was found adulterated or sub-standard, with Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu leading the list where nearly half of the samples failed the test. What is shocking is that failed samples are now 30 per cent of the lot, which was 25 per cent over the last two years. The tests, carried out within the parameters set by the food safety regulator, FSSAI, mean that crackdowns and heightened awareness have meant little. Between 2016-17 and 2018-19, about 8,100 people were convicted for committing food tampering offences and authorities across the states collected nearly Rs 43.65 crore fine from the offenders. Which means that unscrupulous practices of diluting food quality with substitutes and additives continue unabated without fear of falling foul of the law. What it also means is that pesticides and chemicals used in agriculture have had a stubborn effect, affecting both soil and plant health, leading to unwanted spikes in harmful chemicals in food sources. There have been frequent reports of adulterated milk, frighteningly diluted with not just water but starch, groundnut milk and wheat flour. Some reports have also suggested how a majority of Indians would suffer major diseases only because of food contamination. Cooking oils continue to be mixed with low-grade palm oil, cheap edible oils and even cottonseed oil. Some of these are coloured and flavoured to avoid detection of substitutes. Even items of everyday use pose serious health risks, like tea, where used tea leaves are processed and coloured, coffee, which is routinely mixed with tamarind seed, date seed powder and chicory powder and wheat and other foodgrains, into which poisonous fungus is tossed in for volumes. Kitchen essentials like mustard are often mixed with argemone seeds, turmeric with dyes and chilli powder with brick powder.

It’s not that the laws aren’t there but what is pathetically lacking is their uniform implementation and interpretation. Many amendments have been suggested in the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, including life imprisonment and penalty of up to Rs 10 lakh for adulterants. FSSAI has also proposed setting up of state food safety authorities so that this law can be enforced in letter and spirit down to the grassroots. In line with Singapore’s Sale of Food Act, the FSSAI has further proposed that the errant will have to pay fees and other expenses incidental to the analysis of any food, thereby making him/her culpable for reneging on prescribed standards. But as producers, they can hardly be expected to be altruistic or not attempt to bend the rules in collusion with local food inspectors. Besides, often the adulterants escape detection. Therefore, there need to be standardised screening protocols that can be applied for random checks and booking offenders. Food labelling has definitely led to awareness but manufacturers and companies must also be asked to vouch for the authenticity and source of food products and their components. Food is the building block of our national health and human resource and the study should really accelerate efforts to get amended laws passed in Parliament on a priority basis before more damage is done.

Categories: NEWS