Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Maggi and more

Reading Time: 4 minutesMaggi stays banned but what about oil, eggs, vegetables, pulses, asks ABHEET SINGH SETHI 

Maggi two-minute noodles is only the latest food item to be found violative of food-safety standards in India. Consider this: 64 per cent of loose edible oils sold in Mumbai is adulterated, according to a study conducted last year by the Consumer Guidance Society of India.
The study tested 291 samples of sesame oil, coconut oil, groundnut oil, mustard oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil and soybean oil. This apart, arsenic above “critical limits” was found in cereals, pulses, vegetables, roots and tubers. Cadmium above similar criticality was found in cereals, fruits and curd, in a 2013 MS University of Baroda study. Both heavy metals are toxic to human beings.
Looking at other items, 28 percent of eggs sampled in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly, Dehradun and Izatnagar towns were contaminated with E. coli (effects are said to include diarrhoea, urinary and respiratory infections and pneumonia) and 5 percent with multi-drug resistant salmonella bacteria (Effects: diarrhoea, fever, cramps), according to this 2013 study by the Indian Veterinary Research Institute.
More than half of all duck eggs — a local staple in Kerala — sampled in the prosperous town of Kottayam were contaminated with salmonella, according to this 2011 study. Nearly 69 percent of 1,791 milk samples in a nationwide study did not conform to Indian standards (though they weren’t necessarily unsafe). Milk, as IndiaSpend (a data-driven non-profit, public-interest journalism platform) reported earlier, is one of the most-commonly adulterated food items in India, followed by oil and eggs.
Why did Maggi hit the headlines? Maggi’s case — given its popularity — is playing out in a blaze of publicity, as more states ban the noodles and has now been withdrawn from the Indian market by its manufacturer Nestle India.

“The trust of our consumers and the safety of our products is our first priority. Unfortunately, recent developments and unfounded concerns about the product have led to an environment of confusion for the consumer, to such an extent that we have decided to withdraw the product off the shelves, despite the product being safe,” said an official statement by Nestle India.
“This is a very serious issue as it concerns the safety of consumers. Therefore, for the first time, the government has suo motu complained to the Consumer Commission to take cognisance of the matter on behalf of a class of consumers,” Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said.
The move comes after product samples analysed by Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA), Uttar Pradesh were found three times above safe limits.
The permissible limit of lead in food items like Maggi is 2.5 parts per million (ppm), according to food safety regulations of 2011. Maggi samples analysed by the Uttar Pradesh watchdog were found to have lead concentration nearly seven times higher at 17.2 ppm, raising fears of possible lead poisoning among consumers.
The findings of the Uttar Pradesh regulator prompted several states to conduct similar tests on Maggi. Several states have not only banned Maggi but also other brad of instant noodles. Since health is a state subject, states have their own regulators to test if the foodstuff adhere to safety regulations.

Yet, lead isn’t only in food. And foodstuff isn’t the only item that violates safety standards. The air you breathe, the water you drink, even your walls could hold the main toxin that Maggi noodles are suspected to contain.
Lead is also present in household paint. A third of enamel paints analysed had lead concentration above 10,000 ppm — 111 times more than the prescribed norm of 90 ppm by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), according to a recent study by Toxics Link. The study tested 101 enamel paints, of which 32 paints revealed high lead concentrations. All 32 paints were made by small and medium enterprises.
Lead and other carcinogenic heavy metals have also been commonly found in everything from spinach in Delhi and Nagpur to brinjal, tomato and beans in West Bengal. Indeed, there are few vegetables that do not display lead contamination, primarily deposited from vehicular exhaust, as this 2013 study of carrot, radish, beet, cabbage and other vegetables in West Bengal revealed.

The bottom line also is India has not kept pace with its toxins. Detection is crucial to counter the growing problem of food adulteration, but the country has not established enough testing laboratories.
But as IndiaSpend finds, India has only 148 food-testing laboratories. This means, each laboratory serves 88 million people. China, by contrast, has one laboratory for every 0.2 million people.
The percentage of food samples found not conforming to the regulations increased from 12.77 percdnt in 2011-12 to 18.80 percent in 2013-14 — a six percentage-point increase over three years, as per national food watchdog data.
So, while products are violating safety norms, government agencies have also cracked down on violators. The number of convictions in food-adulteration cases increased from 764 in 2011-12 to 3,845 in 2013-14 — a 403 percent rise. But does this data provide the full picture?

- Advertisement -

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...

Latest News

mitali modi with kamala harris

Shattering glass ceilings: Mitali Modi on working with Kamala Harris

  Emboldened to take action in an era of heightened political polarisation, racial unrest and an uncontainable pandemic, young Indian American Mitali Modi talks here...
The free dialysis centre in Delhi's Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. Source: @mssirsa/Twitter

Free-of-charge dialysis hospital at Delhi’s Bangla Sahib Gurudwara

  A 101-bedded dedicated free-of-charge kidney dialysis centre is up and running at the premises of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in New Delhi. The Delhi Sikh Gurudwara...

We asked children around the world what they knew about COVID

  During the pandemic, children have been separated from family and friends, schools have been closed and there have been limitations on important activities, such...

Flexible work arrangements help women, but only if they are also...

  Flexible workplace policies designed to improve gender gaps in employment and pay might actually make things worse for women. Flexible work has been on offer...
Guess The Song rj ekta

LISTEN: Will you be the one to correctly guess this tune?

  Are you good with guessing tunes? Keen ear for rhythm and beats? RJ Ekta might've been able to stump you with this one. She recently...