The survey was conducted by social platform LocalCircles, and included responses from over 13,000 participants nationwide.
When asked whether local or state food safety departments were active in cracking down on food adulterators, 84% of respondents said no.
“It is very clear from the [responses] that adulteration is a serious matter, and FSSAI and other Government agencies have their work cut out to stop this [and] ensure that the people’s health is not put at risk,” said the LocalCircles’ survey report authors.
They suggested that heightening awareness and placing more focus on reacting to consumer reports should be a ‘first step which has been missing for all practical purposes’ so far.
“FSSAI will need to initiate this in mission mode with state food departments and district administration if public health is a Government priority.”
The majority of respondents (68%) also felt that they could not trust the fruit/vegetable suppliers they generally buy from to not sell artificially ripened or coloured fresh produce. Artificial ripening chemicals included both calcium carbide, which is illegal, and ethylene, which FSSAI has permitted at 100 ppm (parts per million).
“Calcium carbide [is known to have carcinogenic properties] and extremely harmful to the human body, while artificial ripening agents in general can lead to headaches, dizziness, mood disturbances, sleepiness, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral edema, seizures and prolonged hypoxia,” said the authors.
Only 15% of respondents said they knew how to differentiate between naturally and artificially ripened fruits, whereas 78% said they did not.
Although fruits and vegetables were identified as the food products most commonly found to be adulterated (30%), other items were not far behind including general grocery items such as flour and spices (29%).
Milk was another commonly adulterated item, coming in at 13%.
FSSAI delays a cause for concern?
Another possible cause for concern is FSSAI’s recent slew of delays and postponements in the implementation of rules and regulations that had been set to be enforced since earlier in the year.
Within regulatory enforcements related to food products (excluding food service) alone, five delays have been observed since January 1, all of which were regulations that had been announced to enhance food safety and quality in the country.
Earlier this month, the agency postponed rules relating to clearer wheat flour labelling (refined vs non-refined) by three months, from the original April 30 deadline to July 31 as a result of ‘representations received from various Industry Associations and [food companies]’’.
This is concerning, as the main reason behind the relabeling was that refined wheat flour (maida) was identified to constitute health concerns, particularly in women suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Last month, FSSAI also delayed the implementation of organic regulations for small firms by one year to April 1 2020, also citing ‘representations regarding challenges faced in the implementation of the Regulations’.
Other postponements included standards governing honey quality, the use of staple pins in tea bags, and the attachment of warning labels to alcoholic beverages.