In an article published on the FSSAI website, an official confirmed that laboratory tests had conclusively proved that the coconut oil products had been adulterated.
“[FSSAI has] banned the production, procurement and distribution of these 14 coconut oil brands, [and] these will face strict action,” she said.
Amongst the brands named as offenders were Surabhi and Soubaghya, both produced by Balakumaran Oil Mills.
Of note is the fact that such bans have taken place multiple times before in Kerala. In December last year, FSSAI had banned another 70 coconut oil brands in the state, June saw 51 bans and May saw 45 bans.
Including the latest ban updates, the total number of coconut oil bans that have been instated in the state so far has reached 180.
“If the unsafe food articles are not recalled with immediate effect, the very purpose of the Food Safety Act will be defeated and it may lead to serious public health issues,” said FSSAI.
India is well-known for being protective of its coconut oil, as previously evidenced by a strongly-worded letter by an Indian governmental official against a Harvard adjunct professor who had declared coconut oil to be ‘pure poison’.
Harvard later distanced itself from any direct connection with the claims, saying that the professor in question was not a ‘Harvard professor’.
New adulteration detection method for vegetable oils
The ban comes of the heels of FSSAI’s implementation of an adulteration technique late last month. The new technique was targeted at ghee containing vegetable oils, specifically coconut oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil and groundnut oil.
According to a separate FSSAI order: “All FSSAI Notified Laboratories and State Food Testing Laboratories are requested to use the aforesaid method (technique) with immediate effect.”
“The method is based on the detection of cholesterol and β-sitosterol as markers, [where the latter] serves as an indicator for the adulteration in ghee [according to plant type and specific dosages].”
India re-enacts tea advisory body
Meanwhile, the Tea Board of India announced that it would be reactivating the Tea Council of India advisory body in order to ensure that tea in the country was of a quality that meets FSSAI standards.
Tea Board Chairman Arun Ray told local media that the council would be randomly sampling tea companies in the nation, and those with samples that failed to meet FSSAI standard would be penalised.
“Two consultants have been appointed by the board for this: One for the computerisation of processes, and the other for identifying processes that are not required,” he said.
Earlier this year, the FSSAI had officially accredited the Tlabs chain of tea testing laboratories for testing and monitoring tea quality in the country. Tlabs is a laboratory chain operated by the Tea Research Association (TRA) in India, and was initially established under the Tea Board of India.
“[Tlabs has two labs, and] basically operates to investigate tea quality according to pesticide parameters in one lab, and quality parameters in the other,” TRA Secretary and Principal Officer Joydeep Phukan previously told us.
Parameters that Tlabs focuses on during its analyses are generally in accord with the ISO 3720 standards for tea, as well as according to FSSAI norms for the local tea market.
“FSSAI has a list of pesticide MRLs and quality parameters for tea, [and Tlabs] can test for overall everything (sic) within our labs.”
FSSAI monitors various quality parameters including pesticide residues, heavy metal presence, iron fillings and toxic substances.