Not fit to eat or drink

Punjab campaign must not flag post-Diwali

More and more food samples are failing in Punjab under the state government’s Tandarust Punjab campaign. Nawanshahr district is leading in the adulteration data released by the Food and Drug Administration for August, with 65 per cent sample failure. On its heels is the holy city of Amritsar at 59 per cent, and Ropar and Patiala tied at 58.6 per cent. Maximum adulteration has been found in milk (252 of 494 samples), butter, ghee, ice cream (307 of 575), edible oils, (21 of 48), processed fruit products like jam, and local namkeen (all 12 samples have failed). Overall, a disturbing 49 per cent of samples do not meet quality.

Ever since the authorities began breathing down the neck of unscrupulous dealers, more such cases have come to light. The September percentage was nearly the same. While the campaign is yielding result, there is need for a sustained drive and compelling action. It is appreciable that the government focus has shifted from meeting ‘targets’ to action and ‘greater transparency’. The drive should not run dry with the coming to an end of the festive season. The raids usually peak at this time of the year, and soften the day after Diwali. Much to society’s consternation, the cycle picks up again the following year. The moment the authorities look away, the wheeling and dealing recommences, endangering public health.

An individual can’t know if what he/she is consuming has any nutritive value, or worse, is detrimental to health; nor is it possible to check every single food item. The guarantee of quality must come from a wired government. For this, it must keep the pressure on, and also generate awareness, appealing to the human side of dishonest traders. Then again, this malpractice is as old as the game. It was no different in British India of a hundred years ago, when adulteration of ‘ghi’, ‘kerosin’ and milk would make it to the front pages of The Tribune. Have we evolved as a people? It was a challenge then, and frustratingly, a challenge now. If curative steps are not taken, it will remain so another hundred years later.

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