TRICHY: “Wash Thoroughly and Cook Thoroughly’ could be the mantra for all to stay healthy as the amount of adulterated food laced with harmful chemicals making its way to the market is on the rise in Trichy. The food items range from everyday items such as vegetables, edible oil, milk, sugar, and grains to ready-to-eat packed foods available in grocery shops. A team comprising a designated officer and 14 food safety officers recently found 84 samples taken from an outlet unsafe. The department filed 65 criminal cases against adulteration in 2018-19.
Among the samples found unsafe, peas remain on top of the chart. The dark green colour coated on peas will make it look like garden-fresh. “The normal peas will not be as dark as the chemically-soaked ones. Since many people think that it is fresh from its appearance, the traders have no inhibition to lace it with chemicals which can have carcinogens,” designated officer of food safety and drug administration department Dr R Chithra told.
As per the Food Safety and Standards Act of India, raw vegetables should not be coated with chemicals. However, the rules are not a deterrent to the traders from indulging in adulteration. The punishment for such offences as per the Act is also not stringent unless or until it leads to loss oflife.
Out of the 65 cases filed by the department in Trichy, the court convicted thoses accused in 23 cases only. The total fine imposed was Rs. 4,33,000.
The officials said that consumers’ tendency to prefer fresh vegetables and colourful groceries forces the traders to use artificial colours on the food items to make it ‘garden-fresh’.
A Suresh Alwar from Puthur in Trichy was of the view that both the consumers and the traders should take the blame equally. “Since people want the vegetables to glow, the traders are forced to satisfy the customers. Also, the traders make the consumers attracted to the products irrespective of the quality,” he said. The food safety department has no powers to act against farmers on the presence of pesticides in the vegetables because of the immunity they enjoy in the Act. The department has also filed civil cases for failing to provide the details of the manufacturer, expiry date and other information on the food packets and collected Rs 7,43,800 as fines.