Cancerous Cocktails? Spice Bans Highlight India's Food Safety Crisis

New Delhi: Once again, India's food safety is plagued by issues. The problem revolves around the ban imposed on products of two prominent Indian spice companies. Countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, and Maldives have enforced bans on these companies' products. Allegations against these companies suggest the presence of a pesticide known to cause cancer in some of their spices. Alongside the ban, these companies have been instructed to remove their products from the market.

Beyond Spices, More Bans

India has opened an inquiry from the governments of Singapore and Hong Kong on this matter. This isn't the first time foreign nations have placed bans on Indian medicines or food products. Countries like the USA, Europe, and several others have previously imposed bans on Indian basmati rice, chili, sweets, and various food products. Additionally, many countries have also placed bans on Indian herbal and allopathic medicines, citing the presence of toxic elements and contaminants. This not only tarnishes India's reputation globally but also affects its exports.

Poor Score in Food Safety

Regarding food safety, India's track record is concerning. Recently, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) urged all states to take action against the presence of pesticides and dangerous chemicals in fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural products from various cities. Despite warnings, states have been negligent in monitoring and regulating the use of pesticides by farmers. While FSSAI has advised vigilance, lax enforcement remains a concern, with actions often limited to mere formalities.

Negligence in Implementing Concrete Measures

It's noteworthy that reports of adulteration and excessive use of pesticides in vegetables, fruits, and various food items surface throughout the year, yet state governments seldom take decisive actions to curb them. The Center for Science and Environment (CSE) in Delhi has repeatedly warned about the presence of hazardous elements like lead, para, and arsenic in vegetables grown along the banks of the Yamuna River. Despite these warnings, vegetables from these areas continue to be consumed by people in the Delhi-NCR region.

Rampant Use of Pesticides

While pesticides are used worldwide to safeguard grains, fruits, and vegetables from pests, there's a limit to their usage. India has its standards, but compliance varies widely across states. Excessive use of pesticides is often attributed to lax food safety standards and inadequate testing. Many experts believe that the rising cases of cancer in the country may be linked to the consumption of food contaminated with these pesticides.

Ignoring Recommendations of Mashelkar Committee

When it comes to food safety, India stands out as a country where negligence prevails, and food safety remains a mere paper tiger. Any state government in the country seems least concerned about citizens' health. India has strict regulations to prevent adulteration or the presence of toxic elements in food products, but enforcement is weak. Greed often leads individuals to tamper with medicines, and even if caught, they often escape with minimal punishment. The recommendations of the Mashelkar Committee, proposed years ago to impose the death penalty for tampering with medicines or selling counterfeit drugs, have been gathering dust, despite changes in multiple governments since then.


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