Calling adulteration a “very serious issue” and revealing that some laws will be affected by the as yet unannounced measures the government will take, health minister JP Nadda told parliament: “The government is determined to take steps to better equip labs and train food inspectors.”
Dairy a major culprit
India has suffered adulteration scandals for years in cases that often include children. It often takes many years for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
The dairy industry has suffered as much as any segment of the food industry, and in 2013, six mainstream milk brands were deemed “unsafe”, and two others “sub-standard”.
The ones termed unsafe contained traces of urea, coliform, e coli and salmonella, though still no action has been taken by the authorities against the companies involved, 18 months after the investigation.
A 2011 study by FSSAI, India’s food watchdog, discovered that 68% of fresh milk had been adulterated—mostly by water—and as much as 33% of packaged milk was also affected.
Packaged drinking water, edible oil, ground spices, tea and coffee have also often found to be adulterated.
Flurry of government activity
A six-month probe by India’s consumer affairs department and its food watchdog into food adulteration began in January.
"The focus of the joint effort will be on detecting the adulteration and identifying the adulterants, disseminate the finding and to create awareness among people,” an unnamed government food official told Times of India ahead of the study.
“Another major thrust is to work out strategies to improve and strengthen testing facilities in partnership with educational institutions.”
In December the government announced it would amend current legislation to make India’s food safety code more stringent, and called on stakeholders to give their views to a dedicated task force investigating the measures to be taken.
"We propose to comprehensively review the Food Safety and Standards Act, rules and regulations to address the concerns of courts in matters relating to food adulteration and the numerous representation received from food business operators,” Nadda said at the time.