Saturday, June 27, 2015

Kerala to Set up Mobile Labs to Test Quality of Food Products

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Concerned over increasing instances of food adulteration, Kerala is gearing up to set up a string of mobile testing laboratories at check posts, claimed to be a first such initiative in the country.
The plan is to examine the quality of food articles, including milk, milk products, oil and water, in view of increasing concerns on the flood of adulterated food articles from neighbouring states.
Tender procedures in this regard were almost complete and negotiations were on with a company to finalise the standards and conditions, a senior Food safety official said.
In the initial phase, three mobile lab units would be set up in selected check posts in the state.
State Food Safety Joint Commissioner K Anil Kumar said,
"This is the first time that any state is setting up such mobile labs at check posts to test quality of edible goods."
"By setting up mobile test labs, Kerala is actually showcasing a model for other states in the drive against adulterated articles. We are planning to open them at selected check posts in the state, but the exact locations are yet to be decided," he told.
The state-owned Kerala Medical Services Corporation Ltd has been entrusted with the selection of the company to set up the mobile labs.
"KMSCL has now zeroed in on a company and negotiations are going on," he said.
He said the state was already carrying out regular checks and strict monitoring to ensure the quality and safety of food articles and the drive has been intensified after the Maggi noodles controversy.
The government had also stepped up its vigil at check posts to prevent the arrival of vegetables and fruits, having high pesticide residue, from neighbouring states.
"There is no comparison between mobile testing labs and our highly sophisticated dedicated food safety labs. Only preliminary examination of samples is possible there. But, we will get first round results faster at the mobile labs," Anil Kumar said.
The samples, found to be having high degree of adulteration, would be sent to the nearby dedicated food safety labs for detailed examination.
"Though the quality of food articles, oil, milk, milk products and water can be tested at these labs, the pesticide content in vegetables cannot be examined there as it is a time consuming analytical process," the official said.
Such a facility would facilitate gradual decrease in flow of adulterated and sub-standard food products from other states, he added.
Kerala recently informed Tamil Nadu that vegetables brought from that state were found to have pesticide residues three to five times more than the permissible limit.
This was noticed during random visits to certain farmlands in nine districts in Tamil Nadu recently by a team of Food Safety officials from Kerala after the state launched a drive against sale of vegetables with high pesticide content.
As part of initiatives to check them, it had been made mandatory for all vegetables traders to get license and registration for sale.
The vehicles bringing vegetables from other states have also got to register themselves under the Food Safety and Quality Act.
A body of pesticide manufacturers had yesterday termed as "unfounded allegation" the Kerala government's finding of high pesticide residues in vegetables received from Tamil Nadu.
"The scientific data collected from Kerala government itself does not support their allegations. So our appeal (to them) is not to make any unfounded allegations against any Indian/Tamil Nadu farmer," Crop Care Federation of India, Advisor (Public and Policy Affairs), S Ganesan told reporters at Chennai.