Court had suggested installation of an automatic Appam packing machine

The recent controversy over fungal infestation on Appam along with Aravana, and disposal of 1.6 lakh packets (each containing seven numbers) of Appam, incurring a loss of Rs.40 lakh, has exposed the alleged negligence of the authorities concerned in complying with the order of the Kerala High Court on March 5, 2012.

In its order, a Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice C.T. Ravikumar, had directed both the Travancore Devaswom Board and the State Food Safety Commissionerate to initiate certain foolproof measures to ensure the quality of the Sabarimala prasadoms.

The court had suggested installation of an automatic Appam packing machine at the Sabarimala prasadom plant to ensure better hygiene and reduce manual labour in the packing process. Though the Special Commissioner appointed by the court, K. Babu, too had issued strict directions to the authorities concerned to implement the court directions without any fail before the beginning of the pilgrim season, the situation continued to be the same as in the previous year.

The court order said the Board and the Commissionerate should act together and scrupulously follow good hygiene practice (GHP) and good manufacturing practice (GMP) at the Appam-Aravana plant at Sabarimala.

Strict monitoring

The Bench had directed both the authorities to ensure “strict monitoring of the activity till the end of the festival season every year.’’

“Standard Sanitary Operating Procedure (SSOP) should be arranged to be done in the plant after conducting swab test for microbiology in large and small utensils, cooling chambers, filling machines, and packing machines by engaging professionals and technically qualified personnel to avoid microbial contamination. If contamination or fermentation is found, the products should not be distributed. Attempt to distribute such sub-standard products after reconditioning, repacking, or retreating should be curbed strictly at any cost,’’ the order said.

The Bench said responsible officers attached to the Board, the Commissionerate, and officials concerned at the local authority should ensure “compliance of the contents of its order in letter and spirit,’’ failing which would be treated as “neglect and negligence in carrying out the official duties.’’