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Food itself seems to be a threat here!

GUWAHATI, May 27: It’s a bitter pill to swallow for the people of Assam! Tests conducted by the State Public Health Laboratory (SPHL) in Guwahati have proved that misbranding, poor standard and lack of safety have made food stuff in Assam not a safe bet.

The enforcement wing of the Commissionerate of Food Safety sends food stuff of suspected safety standards like non-alcoholic beverages, wheat products, food grains, mineral water, packaged drinking water, sweets and confectionary, milk and milk products, edible oils, vegetable, fruits etc to SPHL for tests.

From April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 the laboratory received 693 samples for test. Of the samples, the laboratory has found 19 samples as misbranded, 66 as substandard and 22 as unsafe.

From April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, the laboratory received 633 samples of food stuff sent to it by the enforcement wing of the Food Safety Commissionerate. During test, the laboratory found 21 samples as misbranded, 29 as substandard and 21 unsafe.

The test reports of food stuff have proved it beyond doubt that the food available in the market in the State is not safe for consumption.
The Commissionerate of Food Safety has two wings – the laboratory wing and the enforcement wing – under it. The enforcement wing of food safety has 59 sanctioned posts, but as many as 22 of them have long being lying vacant. The wing has only one designated officer (DO) against five sanctioned posts. The wing has been making do without any DO at its offices in Barpeta, Silchar, Sivasagar and Tezpur.

The wing has only 11 senior food safety officers against the sanctioned strength of 18. Only 25 food safety officers against the sanctioned strength of 36 are working in the State. Believe it or not, but it is a fact that Kamrup (M) has no sanctioned posts of senior food safety officers. Only two sanctioned posts of food safety officers are there. Since visit by VVIPs/VIPs is a regular matter in Kamrup(M), the requirement of food safety is met by bringing food safety officials from other jurisdictions.

A question, therefore, arises: Are unscrupulous traders taking advantage of the lack of manpower in the food safety wing? If it is so, which seems to be the case, people’s lives are in jeopardy then! And if it is so, is the State government awake, or does it have the will to counter the threat?

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Ankur Kalita