By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, January 21: Lack of a regular monitoring system has ensured that unhygienic food business thrives in the State, particularly in the capital city.
Six teams were formed by the Guwahati metropolitan administration in September to clamp down on the city’s food fraud. Drives were conducted during the first few days. Though the exercise was supposed to continue till November, the teams seem to have vanished since September end. In its initial raids, the teams had seized bas worth rupees several lakhs that were being ripened with carbide in godowns of the city.
Although illegal in many countries, calcium carbide (CaC2) is commonly used by traders here to accelerate the ripening process. Industrial grade calcium carbide may contain arsenic and phosphorus, which can be fatal to humans and animals and may even cause cancer.
Traders say unless the fruits are ripened overnight, “it is difficult to meet the demand in the city”. “If we don’t ripe them that way, there will be a massive shortfall in the market. If the government gives us an altertive way, we can go for it,” they said, citing the lack of facilities and altertive means to rrow the demand–supply gap.
Government officials admit that there is no “mechanism for continuous monitoring of the markets. Sometimes, we do conduct raids and we have taken action against unscrupulous traders. But it is not sufficient. Mainly, the wholesale market need monitoring on daily basis,” admits the administration official.
In the process, customers are left at the receiving end. They allege adulterated food, particularly dairy products, fish, meat etc have caused serious hygiene concerns. “The officials concerned conduct raids at times. But those are merely eye–wash. They just want to show that they are doing something. There is no mission and long–term objective as such,” says a local citizen. Around 45 per cent of the fish in the city market comes from outside the State. Nobody knows how they are preserved. “If we keep only local fish, the demand–supply gap will widen drastically. This will lead to high pricing,” a fish wholesaler said.
Complaints have been received from consumers in various areas regarding adulterated milk and contamitions of food. The mece is more in Guwahati where locally produced items are scanty.