Sub-standard rice, ghee, milk, dhal and jaggery being sold

The Pongal festival was over on Monday, but the sweet and delicious pongal which was cooked and eaten at many a home might have contained adulterated ingredients.

Some hard facts have come to light about the materials sold for preparing pongal as random purchases across shops in the city on Sunday by a special vigilant team, on the eve of Pongal, have revealed that the items were highly adulterated. The quality of essentials required to cook sweet pongal — rice, milk, dhal, ghee and jaggery— were bought by a team from the Tamil Nadu Chapter of Indian Public Health Association (IPHA) and Consumers Federation, and the samples tested.

S. Elango, State president, IPHA, who led the drive on Sunday, told The Hindu that the team members tested samples taken from shops in South Gate, Amman Sannidhi, Yanaikkal, Anna Nagar, K. K. Nagar and Tirupparankundram among other places. “We bought them, posing ourselves as customers, from retail shops and roadside vendors. Our findings reveal that more than 50 per cent of the samples were highly sub-standard. The adulteration was high in milk, rice and ghee,” he said.

According to him, the findings are shocking since they were unfit for human consumption. Lactometer test was done on 25 samples of milk and nearly 80 per cent of them were adulterated as it was more of water.

Doubts were also raised regarding weights and measurements in some shops as stones were found in rice and jaggery.

“Our team bought the pongal items because shopkeepers won’t allow us to do any sort of inspection. We bought them in quantities of 100 gm and 250 gm. Ghee sold in busy market areas in Madurai was definitely not of good quality,” Dr.Elango said on Tuesday.

The jaggery had sand particles and stones thereby putting the consumers’ health at high risk. “It is time the food safety regulations were implemented strictly. Inspections must be conducted on a regular basis,” he added.

Dr. Elango, retired Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine of Government of Tamil Nadu, has said that people must take samples and go for tests if they have any suspicion. “We are going to have further analysis of the samples in food testing laboratories. IPHA and consumers’ federation will come out with more findings after carrying out checks for one more month in Madurai and Dindigul districts. The interests of consumers should be protected,” he said.

The team has called upon the Food Safety Officers to create larger public awareness about adulteration and implement the Food Safety and Standards Act without any dilution. Similar purchases and tests were also done in Dindigul bazaar area on the Pongal eve.

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