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While Maggi Might Have Been Caught, 3 Out Of 4 Companies Adulterating Food Get Away With It

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By Gangadhar S Patil:

Three of every four companies found guilty of misbranding or selling adulterated food products get away without any punishment, according to health ministry records, even as Nestle India and the instant-noodle industry continue to suffer what now appears to have been an exaggerated scare over contaminants.

Source: Boomlive.in
Canada, UK, Hong Kong and Singapore, Australia and New Zealand have all found Maggi two-minute noodles to be safe, as have many Indian states, and while legal proceedings continue, the controversy is a reflection of how food-safety procedures unfold in India.

Over the past seven years, about 25% of 53,406 companies against whom prosecution was launched for violating food safety laws were convicted. As many as 72,861 companies were found guilty of misbranding and adulteration during the period.

As many as 72,200 samples of foodstuff, such as dal, ghee and sugar, were collected from across India last year. Of these, 13,571 (about 18%) were found adulterated and substandard.

Experts say that the low conviction rate is one of the primary reasons for the rise of adulterated food in market during the past five years. The percentage of adulterated food tested by government has risen from 8% in 2008 to about 18% in 2014.


Adulterated food can cause cancer, insomnia and other neurological problems, and adulteration is a growing concern across India, as IndiaSpend previously reported.

Who will analyse suspect food?

Officials blame the low conviction rates on a shortage of food analysts. Last year, as this Times Of India report said, Rajasthan closed seven public-health laboratories because it could not find such analysts.

There are only about 200 food analysts in the country, so it becomes really difficult to prove charges in the court,” an official with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) told IndiaSpend. He spoke on condition of anonymity, since he is not authorised to speak to the media.

There are many states that are yet to establish appellate tribunals, as mandated in the Food Safety and Standards Act (2006), to quickly conclude cases where the adjudicating officer has already passed orders, thus leading to trial delays, said the official.

Indeed, the 45% conviction rate in 2014-15 is an improvement from 16% in 2008-09. The spike in conviction rate is mainly because of the establishment of the FSSAI in August 2011.

The food-safety act replaced the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, and multiple regulations. Its implementation is the responsibility of state governments.

Stiff punishment, lax enforcement

Punishments for mislabeling, adulterating or sale of unsafe food can range from six months in jail to life imprisonment, and fines up to Rs 10 lakh.

Over the past three years, the government has collects about Rs 17 crore in fines.

State food-safety officers pick random samples and send them to government laboratories for testing, a process monitored and regulated by the FSSAI.

A scrutiny of the past three years’ records show that except for a few state authorities, such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, none of them have convicted offenders. Bihar, Rajasthan and Haryana are among the worst performers.

Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh were among the states where every third sample tested was found below standards.

Patil is a New Delhi-based freelance journalist. He has worked with The Economic Times, DNA and The New Indian Express.

This article was previously published on IndiaSpend.

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  1. Ajoy Daspurkayastha

    About 3 months back a team of high-profile FDA,USA officials visited India and made the following bright remarks(please see Quote—- Unquote text only) about India’s vision on food safety headed by FSSAI(Food Safety and Standards Authority of India)

    Food Industry, be it in india or, elsewhere in the world should look Food regulators in a positive attitude to help protect the public health and safety of the country’s citizens in question which obviously includes protecting the health and safety of the sons and daughters, mothers and fathers and relatives of all the stakeholders of the food processing industries in india and abroad because food industry is no more only local, it is global too.

    Here below, I am trying to give you an idea how a food regulator(FDA,USA) has a feeling for a food regulator (FSSAI,India)which speak volumes in itself that in the present world, no food regulator can work in isolation. They need collaborative alliance to each other to upkeep food safety of utmost importance. And that is one of the main reason ,as to why every food regulator remain duty-bound to rise to the noble occasion of protective food safety in the global scenario of food processing industry where 5 ingredients can be sourced from 5 different continents and had to face 5 different (may look like apparently the same) food safety/quality checks in different challenging scenarios.
    Henceforth, food regulations never get an opportunity for dilution of food regulations just merely because food industry stakeholders on and off feels panicky about food regulations destined to upkeep the public health and safety of utmost importance as like that of India and USA whose national priority is “Food Safety”.
    Web-reference:– http://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/tag/food-safety-and-standards-authority-of-india-fssai/
    Tile/Authors reference: — In a country full of differences, common ground
    Posted on March 27, 2015 by FDA Voice By: Michael Taylor, Howard Samberg and Camille Brewer on FDA Voice’s TAG ARCHIVES: FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARDS AUTHORITY OF INDIA (FSSAI)

    Quote—-Although we don’t know most of the 22 official languages spoken here, we nonetheless realized after meeting with FSSAI that we “speak the same language” in terms of our food safety challenges and solutions. —-Unquote

    Quote—-But the Indians are no strangers to sweeping change to improve food safety—Unquote

    Quote—- Our counterparts, known as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), are also undergoing a significant regulatory overhaul, known as the Foods Safety and Standards Act. Passed in 2006, it was the law that actually created FSSAI. At its core, the Act seeks to ensure that India’s food industry is adhering to international, science-based standards for food safety. Not unlike FSMA, this law poses many challenges in terms of how it can be successfully implemented, with both laws mandating comprehensive change, including marked increases in authority that require new resources to implement.— Unquote

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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