India celebrates its festivals with much fervour and joy. The sentiment is often displayed with an increased consumption of sweets. With people making a beeline for its purchase during festivals, adulteration becomes easy for shop owners. Since festivals bring forth an opportunity to increase one's sales and earn profit, in order to reap benefits, small shop owners lower their price of sweets and resort to using adulterated and sub-standard ingredients. Most traditional Indian sweets contain milk, khoya, dry fruits, varq, and mustard oil that can be adulterated using unhygienic alternatives. These methods fulfil the increased demand in festivals, but make huge profit margins at the cost of consumers' health.
Section 3 (a) of the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006 has defined adulterant as any material, which is or could be employed for making the food unsafe or sub-standard or misbranded or containing extraneous matter. Sweet shops that use adulterated products are most likely unaware and go on with fewer quality and hygiene checks. Add to that, the increase in the prices of raw materials, which further tempts them into covering their losses through the use of sub-standard products.
Audits And Self- Regulation Can Go A Long Way
With traditional sweet shops being an unorganised sector, there needs to be mandatory quality check on their products. Food dyes are one of the most widely used and dangerous additives and can be allergic among other things. Avoiding brightly coloured sweets could prevent consumers from any health problems in the long run. There needs to be regular audits to ensure the product is safe for consumption. Stringent regulations in place like cancelling licenses of erring shopkeepers need to be considered as an option.
(Also Read: Healthy Food Making You Feel Uncomfortable? Blame It On Food Adulteration)
Role Of FSSAI
FSSAI has come a long way in combating adulteration in products. To safeguard consumer interest, the FSSAI has rolled out a major scheme for strengthening the food testing infrastructure in the country at an estimated cost of Rs 482 crore. With the onset of festivals, it has become easy for sweet shop owners to adulterate products due to increased demand. But with the recent regulations of FSSAI mandating food safety checks and display of hygiene ratings, consumers can now make informed choices of the products they purchase. The onus of safety also falls on the consumer as they need to enquire and be aware of the conditions the products are made in. Also, refuse purchase if the quality and hygiene do not meet with the set FSSAI standard. It is a long road ahead, but with active cooperation from the manufacturers, adulteration of products can be brought down.
This festive season, beware of adulterated food items and make wise choices to steer clear of health-related issues.
About Author: Ashwin Bhadri is Chief Executive Officer at Equinox Labs.
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