Rajasthan human rights body seeks answers over food adulteration

In petition, Commission claims use of banned food dyes; use of colour on low quality cereals, and vegetables being washed in sewage water

By Meenakshi Sushma
Published: Monday 04 March 2019
Representational Image: Vikas Choudhary
Representational Image: Meeta Ahlawat/CSE Representational Image: Meeta Ahlawat/CSE

The Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) took suo motu cognisanze of media reports alleging adulteration in food items and sought details regarding this from the state government on February 27, 2019. It gave the state government time till April 9, 2019, to file the details.

“This was filed after the state media reported about rampant food adulteration,” says Ganpat Sharma, personal assistant to SHRC chairperson. 

The petition by SHRC quoted media reports to claim that banned food dyes were being used, which is causing skin allergies; cereals are being sold at a lower rate by polishing and adding colours to low quality cereals.

Further, it said that rajma (black bean), is being coated with colour and local vendors are using sewage water to clean the vegetables.

Rajasthan is not the first state raising this issue. In 2015, Mysore Grahakara Parishat, a consumer rights NGO had conducted a survey and found common adulterants like metanil yellow and lead chromate — both inorganic dyes used in leather, paper and textile industries — in food products. It also found pepper samples polished using mineral oil, which gave the pepper a rich black look.

Similarly, 84.5 per cent of food served along Chardham routes was found adulterated, according to a report by the Society of Pollution & Environment Conservation Scientists (SPECS), Dehra Dun.

SPECS collected samples — including street food and food offered as prashad — from 47 places along Chardham yatra routes in Garhwal, Uttarakhand; for the study conducted between May 25 and August 2, 2018.

Ilaichidana, which is generally given as prashad in most temples, was found to be contaminated with chemicals. Similarly, dry fruits like cashew, kishmish (dried raisins) — offered as prashad — were found to be of poor quality. Further, the coconut used for pooja, at Kedarnath, was found to be stale. Even the ghee (clarified butter) offered during ceremonies was found to be adulterated.

The SHRC’s petition seeking reasons behind such rampant incidences of food adulteration is currently awaiting reply from the state government.

A total of 16,659 samples were found adulterated or misbranded out of 80,463 in 2016-17, said Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, in a reply to a question raised in Parliament in December 2017.

In 2015-16, 16,133 samples out of 77,941 were found to be adultered; while the number stood at 14,716 samples out of 84,537 in 2014 -15.

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