Officials seized several cartons containing sachets of adulterated oil that were sold as gingelly oil and groundnut oil at a rate lower than the market prices of branded edible oil from shops in Madurai on Tuesday.

The officials also raided a lorry transport office from where the cartons were stocked for transporting to other districts. Based on specific complaints from consumer activists, Collector Anshul Mishra directed District Supply Officer (DSO) S. Rajendran and Personal Assistant (General) to Collector A.J.A. Jeyasingh Gnanadurai to conduct the raids.

Teams of officials conducted searches at shops in East Masi Street, South Marret Street and a parcel booking office at Munichalai. Mr. Rajendran said that the sachets were packaged and marketed from a shop in South Marret Street and were sold in many parts of the State. The suppliers had printed, in bold letters, on the sachets that oil packed in them were gingelly and groundnut oil. “The sachets had a symbol of a chef which might mislead the buyers to believe that the oil is edible, whereas it is not,” he said.

Though an old shopkeeper argued with the officials, claiming that they were selling the oil only for puja purposes — for burning puja lamps, the DSO questioned him as to why the photograph of gingelly seeds were printed on the sachets. The photograph of groundnuts was also printed in other sachets. When the man tried to point out that they had printed “for external use only” (in English), the DSO objected to it saying that the words were printed deliberately in fine print. He also pointed out that the bold letters in Tamil, reading “(oil was “good also for puja purpose” was meant to mislead the buyers, as if it was good for cooking too.

Also, on the cartons of groundnut oil sachets, it was printed: pure filtered groundnut oil.

While the branded oil was sold for around Rs. 240 a litre, these sachets were sold for around Rs. 95, a consumer activist, M. Ashok Kannan, who accompanied the officials, said. The sachets of these brands were very popular in rural areas as it was cheaper. “Grocery shops where the oil was sold claimed that it was second-hand oil,” he added.

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