The consignment was brought in wagons used to transport petroleum products
KOCHI: Three different samples of the allegedly low-quality palm oil brought here from Chennai in rail wagons were collected and sent for lab test on Tuesday.
Stringent measures would be taken against the guilty under the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act based on the lab result, District Collector A.P.M. Mohammed Hanish told reporters here on Tuesday.
If the result proved that the oil was spurious, the more serious Prevention of Food Adulteration Act would be invoked, he said.
The district administration and the police on Monday night confiscated 1,820 tonnes of palm oil brought to the Ernakulam Harbour Terminus railway station in 35 wagons. The confiscation was made under the Essential Commodities Act.
Explaining the reason for confiscation, the Collector said that there was a genuine concern that allowing the consignment into the open market for consumption would pose serious public health problems.
The consignment was for a private company’s storage terminal at the Cochin Port Trust.
The main objective of the lab test was to assess whether the palm oil was edible. Earlier in the day, a team led by Chief Food Inspector Ajith Kumar examined the palm oil in the wagons and also the lot pumped into storage tanks.
About 11 loads of palm oil had been transferred to the storage tanks by the time authorities confiscated the load.
Instructions were given to move the palm oil completely to the storage tanks so as to avoid the disruption of wagon movement, the Collector said. The tanks would be kept under police protection, he said.
Meanwhile, the District Supply Officer thoroughly examined the office of the consignee company that was sealed on Monday night. All documents, including invoices and receipts, were examined and the necessary ones were taken into custody, Collector said.
The Collector said that the case provided the scope for various inferior motives mentioned under the Essential Commodities Act. It could have been meant for hoarding to make undue profit when there was scarcity for palm oil, he said.
The incident also raised the question whether a new trend was being set to bypass the High Court Order banning the shipping of palm oil through Kochi port.
The company claimed that it had been doing this for long and that it was not a new practice. In that case they need to explain why they tried to bring in the consignment in the guise of petroleum products, the Collector said.
Ruchi Soya Industries has clarified that it was not importing palm oil but that the consignment of the edible oil that arrived in Kochi on Monday was part of a regular transport operation of edible oil.
A spokesman of the company said on Tuesday that the wagons used for transport had been in edible oil transport over the last one year and that regular parcels of palm oil were brought to Kochi from stocks available at refineries in Chennai, Mangalore, Kakkinada, Indore, Haldia, etc.
Media attention on what was a regular operation could be because of a recent ban on import of palm oil via Kochi. Part of the problem also arose from the wagons being marked petrol, he said