The Solvent Extractor’s Association of India (SEAI) in order to safeguard the interest of consumers, have urged the centre and various state governments to discourage the sale of loose edible oil and also give stringent punishments to the violators. Speaking over phone, BV Mehta, Executive Director (SEAI) said, “We have been urging and also forcing both the government and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for the implementation of Packaging Act, under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, but the request by our association fall on deaf ears.”
Mehta, while speaking to The Today’s News about the adulteration in mustard oil said, “The biggest issue is that, many traders who are selling the loose edible oils are playing with the health of consumers. We have been advocating in recent past, that the government must discourage the sale of loose edible oils. Several times we have urged both union government as well as state government to ensure that the edible oil is retailed in a packaged form so that the quality is ensured.”
“We are also of the view that the consumers must be educated by the FSSAI, food safety bodies and non governmental organisations who fight for the rights of the consumers, about the advantages of packed edible oil.” informed Mehta. Giving his opinion he added, “The packaging of all edible oil was ordered in 1998 under The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, but till 2006, before the new act came into force, the act was not fully enforced in many states. Later FSSAI, under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 ordered the implementation of the act, but still it has not been implemented fully in many states. Let the state government take the initiative and start implementing the packaging act on an urgent basis to safeguard the health of consumers. The state government should not cry about the infrastructure for lack of implementation but they should come ahead and take a strict action against those who are involved in the adulteration of the edible oils.”
When The Today’s News contacted Vijay Bahadur Yadav, Assistant Commissioner, Food Safety & Drug Administration (FSDA), Uttar Pradesh and asked him about the adulteration process in the state, he revealed, “The traders just for unwavering greed and profit take hold of common people. The traders from Meerut and Kanpur were raided by our team before the festive season.” In the year 2015, during the festive season, the food officers did a surprise raid in Kanpur and Meerut and they confiscated and seized more than 25,000 litres of mustard and refined oil from traders with licenses to produce mustard oil. The sample results of mustard oil seized from Kanpur were of substandard quality. Even after the action against the traders in 2015, the adulteration case in edible oil was repeated again this year in Uttar Pradesh. In 2015, our food officers confiscated 25,000 litres of mustard oil sold in loose form from Kanpur and Meerut. This year too, we confiscated and seized 20,000 litres of adulterated edible oil from Agra and sent it to the lab for analysing and when the few result came, the amount of adulteration items was alarming.” Yadav said.
The Assistant Commissioner of FSDA, Uttar Pradesh, while carrying out the raid with his team was surprised not by the illegal activity of the traders but by their brazenness. Most of the traders were interested in pocketing huge profits and were not at all bothered and concerned about public health. When he went for raid on a tip-off, he found that the traders were openly selling the adulterated oil. He and his team was opposed aggressively for legal sampling of the oil for quality checks.
During the five days raid before the festive season in few parts of the Uttar Pradesh, the food safety officials found more than 25 quintals of broken rice, more than 25 quintals of rice husk and synthetic colours, which were used for the adulteration. Yadav explained, “Apart from involving in illegal activities, these traders also do not fear the law. They just focus on how to sidestep it and hoodwink the authorities. The method which these traders use is that, they sell contaminated oil under various brand names. If one trader is investigated, the others continue. And for them, it takes no time to introduce new brand. Some big brand representatives are also involved with these unorganised traders in adulteration business.”
Appealing to the media, Yadav concluded by saying, “Our team and we can only raid the place where adulteration takes place and can give an additional responsibility to our food safety officers about educating and making people aware about how to check the adulteration in oil. Media should make people aware about the adulteration in mustard oil and can spread a message to the consumers for using packed oils instead of loose edible oil.”
On the condition of anonymity a representative from KS Oils, Madhya Pradesh said, “Due to some corrupt traders who adulterate mustard oil for their own benefits, some big companies like us and other branded mustard and refined oil manufacturers also come under the scanner of the food safety authority. The traders who are involved in the adulteration of edible oils should be given a stringent punishment by the authority so that they don’t repeat the act.”
Several attempts to get in touch with the officials of Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) were futile.