Of 800 cases handled by BBMP lab, only 15 came from citizens

Though the menace of food adulteration appears to have increased in the recent past, lack of awareness and prohibitive costs for testing seems to be keeping Bangaloreans away from getting their suspicious food products analysed in laboratories.

Sample this. If the food testing laboratory in Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) handled around 800 cases last year, only about 15 cases were brought to it directly by the citizens while the rest came through its officials. Further, enquiries with some leading private laboratories revealed that they received fewer cases in a whole of last year.

This comes even as food products such as chilli powder, spices, ghee, butter, honey, flour, coffee and tea powder, beverages and chocolates among many others, being adulterated by unscrupulous traders and companies.

“Consumers are not even aware of what tests should be conducted since a range of chemical tests are on the offer and each of the tests are expensive. In fact, they do not even know what to look for in food products when they are suspecting that they have got an adulterated product,” said Deepa Vishwanathan, chief executive officer of Pristine Laboratories, a certified AGMARK Lab in the City. According to her, they receive about 4 or 5 cases in a year.

“Most of those tests conducted are prescriptive analysis that the companies come forward to before the product is made available in the market. However, investigative analysis that can come afterwards are very few,” she said.

If nutritional analysis is cumbersome and has a wide range of tests, pesticidal analysis is expensive while microbial and water analysis are for cooked food. The cost of these tests range from Rs. 80 to Rs. 10,000, and some times even more.

“The process at BBMP is a little cumbersome. Either you have to pay Rs. 300 along with the sample for testing or give a written complaint to the Chief Health Officer following which food inspectors would be sent and samples collected,” a source in BBMP said and added that generally people do not come voluntarily with a complaint. “Things could change when the provisions of Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 will be implemented.”

Acknowledging that the awareness about food safety is poor, K.J. Balasubramani, assistant director of Shriram Institute for Industrial Reseach, a NABL accredited laboratory, said that there is an urgent need to create awareness on food safety. “On an average we get about 2 cases a month. Government should take the lead in creating the awareness.”

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