Operations by food safety, dairy officials

The Office of the Commissioner of Food Safety and officials from the department of dairy development will hold joint operations to ensure the quality and safety of milk and milk products during the ensuing festival season.

Checks on milk will be carried out jointly by the two sets of officers as was done during the last Christmas and New Year season, State Food Safety Commissioner Biju Prabhakar told The Hindu on Monday.

The expertise, infrastructure and manpower to conduct quality checks on milk lay with the dairy development department while the legal aspects can be taken care of by the office of the Food Safety Commissioner, said Mr. Prabhakar.

He said that there was no confusion or grey areas in this. The spirit of the new food safety regime is to ensure total safety. Officials from different departments have to cooperate to achieve this. Traditionally, the Onam season sees milk and milk products sales peaking in Kerala, backed by free flow of milk from across the State’s borders. The dairy development department appears a little confused on issues related to quality check even as Onam is just a month away. Department sources blamed it on what they called a lack of clarity about their role in quality control with the new food safety regime in place.

For more than five years, the department used to launch intense quality control measures during the festival seasons.

This season, however, there was no government directive on using the department’s expertise and infrastructure in quality control drive, sources said.

A week-long quality check using quality control units complete with temporary lab facilities at check posts in Palakkad, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, and Idukki districts used to be a permanent fixture during the past festival seasons.

Mobile labs were also deployed at checkposts and wherever possible. The department also has labs in all 14 districts and another two State-level labs. Quality control cells were operated in all 14 district headquarters to test milk samples brought by the public and samples collected from the market.

On an average, the department used to test about 20 lakh litres of milk a day across the State during the drive. Supply of milk from other States goes up by 20 to 25 per cent during Onam compared to about 20 lakh litres a day on normal days.

Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Maharashtra are the major suppliers to the State and 75 per cent of the supply enters through Palakkad district. Since the drive started, the department had banned five brands of milk for containing preservatives and adulterants.

Department sources said that this has sent a strong message, as samples were free of preservatives and adulterants during the last couple of years and at the most the products were found to be substandard calling for improvement notice.

Keywords: milkfood safety

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