Food safety laws of packaged and non-packaged foods

20 October 2016 | Column | By Dr. V. Prakash,FRSC

Food safety in India Food safety in India

This is an important issue to address. Normally the packaged foods have labels on them such as what it contains, what it is made up of, what are the health claims, the calories, proteins, fat, vitamins and minerals etc. But when it comes to safety it could have gone through a bad transportation, may be a raw material was not fit enough to manufacture, etc and many a times this comes into picture from time to time and the manufacturer always takes up the task to answer why this food is not up to the mark.
An example is that of heavy metals. In the environment today in cities we have so much heavy metal in the air and we are trying to analyse it in foods in one part per billion. So how do we combat these two? On the one side we want a clean and safe food, but on the other side we have a very complex polluted environment globally. It is so right to call for Swachh Bharat but even Swachh Aahar is part of the whole chain.
Swachh Aahar does not mean you wash the vegetables or fruits, but it is the hazardous chemicals and contaminants that should be avoided and washed away we think by some miraculous way. The chemicals that should not be used with food with levels being strictly controlled is a possible solution and and it also depends upon the average daily intake of the average person for that food. For example the quantity of rice eaten by a North American is far less compared to the quantity of rice eaten per day by a normal Indian or Chinese or as a matter of fact the quantity of wheat being eaten too.
Therefore it is the quantity that goes into the body that is equally important as many times the toxins, the heavy metals, the pesticides, the chemicals (either added intentionally to give a colour or unintentionally is cross contaminated) all that will accumulate in the body such as liver which creates subsequently life threatening problems. So it is not a one day issue.
Hence an unsafe food being consumed for a long time in life can create more problems with very chronic diseases and cause a real injury to certain organs of the body. So what we think is a safe food may be not be okay to an individual because of allergic reactions may be, because of the nature of the person and his biological make up etc. So Personalized food becomes a very important aspect and one food may not be safe for all!? So how do we make individual foods?! Is it humanly impossible to make like that? Therefore for example processed rice, converting paddy to rice, converting wheat to wheat flour all happens in bulk and the nutrients are added to it because of enriching them and is processed. However if carelessness of the manufacturer results in contamination, the law will take over and do the needful.
This is where the government must get into surveillance constantly and keep checking. One needs to be strong with the infrastructure of an analytical laboratory. But there is also high cost involved for the development of high end infrastructure in the state laboratories (which are very poorly funded currently) and all this comes into play in defining a certain contaminant and perceiving the industry with evidence for self-regulations with dialogue.

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