Monday, March 21, 2016

[Editorial # 88] Increasing the cost of violation is the only way to tackle food adulteration : The Economic Times

[Following editorial has been published in The Economic Times on 21st March 2016. Read through it and try to answer the questions that follow. Please do not copy and paste answers. The objective of this exercise is to get you in the groove of answer-writing. Try to write in your own words. Don't hesitate to write in a bulleted-format, if you are uncomfortable in writing in paragraph form.]

Nearly 70% of the milk in India is adulterated. This, simply, is not acceptable. The government has said that a new scanner has been developed for quick detection of adulteration, and is now working towards developing a portable test kit based on this technology. While this development will help improve detection, addressing the problem of adulteration of this essential food item will require changes in the regulatory and legal framework and the manner in which the food safety administration discharges its duties.

The adulteration of milk can be grouped into two broad categories: contamination arising from poor hygiene, handling and packaging; and deliberate addition of water to increase the quantity and, along with the water, other substances that mask the dilution, such as urea, detergents, shampoo, caustic soda, hydrogen peroxide and oil, which apparently enhance viscosity, never mind if the milk is transformed into a poisonous cocktail. This is an egregious violation and must attract stiff penalties: jail terms and heavy fines, besides closure of offending units. Identifying the point of adulteration is crucial. Therefore, testing must be made mandatory across the supply chain, from the primary collection point to the processing and packaging plant. No producer or aggregator will be able to sell without a test. Each unit should be required by law to submit its daily test results, and these should be publicly available. This will make it possible to identify the source of adulteration. Adulteration must be made a cognisable offence.

The only way to tackle adulteration of essential food items like milk is to increase the cost of violation. Failure to do so will mean continuing to expose the millions of Indians, particularly children, to a public health time bomb.


1. How much is the annual milk production in India? How much is Per Capita Availability of milk in our country? Which are the top 5 milk producing states of India?

2. What is the composition of milk? What are various tests to find out adulteration in milk?

3. What is meant by adulteration? What are common food adulterants?

4. What are various legal provisions for checking adulteration in food?

5. What are the harmful effects of food adulteration on human body? 

6. Mention a few international standards in the area of ensuring food safety?

7. Who regulates food safety standards in India? How does is enforce food safety standards?

8. What are the challenges in maintaining food safety standards in a country like India? How can they be tackled? 

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