Shortage of testing facilities, technicians plagues Food Safety Authority

Thousands of milk consumers will be exposed to the risk of using adulterated or contaminated milk this Onam season as there is a dearth of technicians and laboratory facilities for checking milk.

The use of milk goes up to 50 times the usual during the festival season. The public is susceptible to exploitation by unscrupulous traders who bring in low quality and adulterated milk from neighbouring States for the season.

Even though the authorities are aware of the risk spurious milk poses to public health, the shortage of testing facilities and technicians prevents them from acting tough, officials of Food Safety Authority have said.

Besides branded milk, large volumes of milk are regularly transported to Kochi and other districts in huge aluminium containers via rail. The unchecked milk thus brought to the State was consumed during the festival season, said T.K. Ashraf, chairman of the Health Standing Committee of the Kochi Corporation.

The new legislation on food safety puts the onus of checking and collecting milk samples on officials of the Food Safety Authority.

As these officials will be engaged in the routine sampling and inspection of food products, it will be difficult to get their services for collecting milk samples.

It was after much persuasion that some of the officials came forward for collecting milk samples during the last Onam, said Mr. Ashraf.

Last time, it took a fortnight to get the samples of the milk tested, making the drive against spurious milk a sham. Such drives were ineffective in case of non-branded milk brought in containers as one would not be able to stop its sale, he said.

Biju Prabhakar, Food Safety Commissioner, Kerala, said the authority would not be able to ensure that good quality milk would be sold in the State during Onam. “It’s a fact that lab facilities are insufficient in the State. There is also the shortage of officers. Nearly half the posts of officers are lying vacant and the hands of available officials are full,” he said.

Testing samples

The authority has tied up with various agencies for testing milk samples.

The service of the officials of the Animal Husbandry Department have been made available for checking the milk carriers at various check posts and arrangements for quickly obtaining results have been made. The authority has also sought the cooperation of various State departments and Central government agencies for testing the food samples, he said.

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