Had it not been for the social media, the ‘Chinese egg’ would not have attained its current notoriety. Similar were the cases of fumes emanating from fish or of plastic rice entering the market or dye being injected into watermelons.
Unfortunately, all such reports reached the electronic media and certain sections of the print media, almost confirming people’s fears over instances they saw first on social media.
However, why the same social media or the mainstream media did not give much space to reports exposing the hoax remains unclear.
The media which spread the hoax earlier should take the responsibility of clearing the air, say people with scientific authority and temperament.
“Ordinary people are misguided by such videos and news,” says Thomas Biju Mathew, professor and head of the pesticide laboratory of the Kerala Agricultural University. He was involved in a series of tests regarding the ‘Chinese eggs’ and other issues.
“The social media, instead of complementing our lives, is now almost a disease,” he adds.
Dr. Mathew takes a serious view of the fake news spreading through the media and says the government should come up with some cyber law to tackle the problem because it is a crime to create fear and confusion. There are methods to zero in on persons spreading unverified news regarding prominent persons. The methods should be utilised to find the source of fake news as well, he adds.
The government has facilities to check any aspect of food adulteration and contamination, and Food Safety offices and inspectors are available in all districts.
People should alert Food Safety officials if any such issue occurs in their locality or if they come across a message or news warning of such dangers, says K.V. Shibu, Assistant Commissioner, Food Safety, Ernakulam.
The telephone numbers of the Food Safety offices and the officers concerned for each district are available on the website, www.foodsafety.kerala.
A. Jayakumar, the secretary general of Vijnana Bharati, a movement of the Swadeshi science, says people should not believe everything blindly.
“It could also be something that is being promoted by certain vested interests,” he adds.
A scientific temperament seems to be missing in questioning such messages that create fear in people’s minds, says Mr. Jayakumar. “Mechanisms for food safety are in place across the country, and people should respond with responsibility towards society. The government too should be quick in its action,” he adds.