Speaking at the Rajya Sabha (India’s Council of States), Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Rameswar Teli said that 3,403 food samples in the state were found to be adulterated, the highest absolute number found amongst all the states in India.
“Across the country, over 94,000 samples of food were analysed in the year from 2018 to 2019. From this, 26,077 failed [the checks] and 3,403 of these were from Punjab. [This was] the highest in the country,” he said.
According to Times of India, the second-highest on the list was the state of Tamil Nadu with 2,601 adulterated samples found, followed by 208 samples in Jharkand.
The report was not comprehensive, lacking data from several states such as Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
High in numbers, not in percentage
In terms of percentage, Punjab ranked lower than both Tamil Nadu (45.4%) and Jharkand (41.7%) at 28.5%. The national average was found to be 27.7%.
Punjab was also recognised as having conducted the most checks in the country with 11,920 samples submitted in total – a possible reason for the large number of adulterated cases found.
However, the state acknowledged that the overall numbers were still higher than they should be, adding that dairy was a major issue.
“We have been collecting almost 1,000 food samples every month,” said Kahan Singh Pannu, Director of Punjab’s Mission Tandarust.
“[Substandard milk, paneer and various other food items are a huge problem here and we are working hard to put an end to this.”
Mission Tandarust was launched in 2018, and is basically the gathering of responsibilities by various state departments to make Punjab the ‘healthiest state’ in the country.
According to the mission’s website, the Health Department is responsible for increasing awareness about ‘the food safety concerns and effective implementation of Food Safety Act especially ensuring the prescribed quality of milk and milk products’, and the local government needs to ‘ensure adequate safe potable drinking water availability in urban areas’.
Punjab India vs Punjab Pakistan
The Indian state of Punjab is not to be confused with the Pakistani province of the same name.
Food safety in Punjab (India) is governed under the Food Safety and Standards Authority India (FSSAI), whereas Punjab (Pakistan) is under the purview of the Punjab Food Authority (PFA).
The PFA is also very active in combatting food adulteration, from conducting constant raids leading to the confiscation of thousands of kilogrammes of tainted products, to implementing regulations such as the banning of milk freezing in factories without the related licensing.
It is known to be especially harsh on dairy adulteration, so much so that milk sellers in the Pakistani province conducted a protest against the PFA earlier this year, citing a ‘clear bias’ against dairy.