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MiD DAY survey reveals, what's in your mosambi juice?

MiD DAY's investigations have revealed that the popular sweet lime juice served at some of the most popular joints in the city is swarming with harmful pathogens like coliform, which cause severe diarrhoea

Here's some news about a ubiquitous 'health drink' that could make you feel sick to the stomach, quite literally. Your glass of mosambi (sweet lime) juice, which you gulp down unsuspectingly to quench your parched throat, may well be swarming with harmful micro-organisms like coliform bacteria, as conclusively proved by laboratory tests conducted on a variety of samples. And digest this: one of the strains found was faecal coliform, the other being E coli, which can cause severe diarrhoea.


From joint to lab: MiD DAY reporters first purchased fruit juice from
the popular joints.




Handled with care: The contents of the glass were carefully poured
into containers specially procured for the project.



All set to go: The contents were then carefully poured into thermocol
boxes, lined with ice packs. These boxes were then sent to the lab for
tests. pics/pradeep Dhivar


In an attempt to investigate the health quotient of fast food, MiD DAY collected samples of popular food items served up to thousands of ravenous citizens on the go, every day.

Team MiD DAY began its quest for the healthy glass-full at the popular and populous Haji Ali juice centre in Worli, then trekked ahead to the Bachelorr's juice centre at Charni Road, made a pit stop at Amar Juice Centre in Vile-Parle, and rounded up its journey at the Health Juice centre in Matunga. 

These samples were then sent for examination at the Metropolis laboratory. Four of the most popular items in the city were chosen: two kinds of Chinese dishes served in Chinese restaurants, pav bhaji, the hurried meal for the man on the go, and mosambi juice, the quick-fix solution to the parched throat of the busy Mumbaikar. Four samples of each were collected.

Glass half-empty
After days of waiting came the undiluted truth, which could easily convince you to steer clear of your favourite juice haunt in the city. Of the 16 food items tested, all four samples of mosambi juice from all the eateries were found unsatisfactory and unfit for consumption, as per guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

"We have classified the examined food items under three categories -- acceptable, satisfactory and unsatisfactory. Of all the food articles tested, the samples of mosambi juice showed up a high presence of coliform bacteria and yeast, making them unfit for consumption. Faecal coliform and E coli can both trigger gastrointestinal ailments, such as diarrhoea," said Dr Shamma Shetye, head of Microbiology and Molecular Biology at Metropolis Healthcare Limited.
 
And sure enough, statistics suggest that diarrhoea has been on the steady rise in the city for the past three years. According to statistics available with the BMC, 81,321 cases were reported in between March 2008-9 at various municipal dispensaries and state hospitals. The number rose to 1.16 lakh in 2009-10, and reached a new high of 1.25 lakh cases in 2010-11.

The other side
Predictably, the intimation that the gastronomic delights put on offer by them were contaminated did not go down well with the owners. All the proprietors insisted that the fruits are contaminated prior to purchase.   

Sudhakar Manyat, owner, Haji Ali Juice Centre
"We always serve unadulterated fruit juice, and don't even add sugar, unless requested by the customer. Fresh fruits are bought every day from Vashi market. Our workers strictly maintain high levels of hygiene while maneuvering our juicers.  We don gloves while handling the fruits, and wash them before adding them to the juicer. It is a well-known fact that fruit farmers use chemicals to ripen their fruits. The presence of bacteria could stem from that."

Tushar Joshi, owner, Amar Juice Centre
"It is not at all acceptable that the juice served at our centre is unsatisfactory. We don't add any extra ingredients to the juice, not even water. Our workers wash the fruits before passing them through the juicer. We are extremely careful, as many of our customers are patients of Cooper hospital, which is situated just behind our juice centre. We purchase fresh fruits every day from the Vashi market. The only explanation that I can think of is that there must be harmful chemicals present in the fruits themselves, as farmers apply them to help them ripen faster."

Shrikant Patil, manager, Health Juice Centre
"We never add water to the juice. We only add ice when and if the customers ask for it. The juice is made fresh, only after the order is placed. We serve 500 different varieties of juice, and have never received complaints."

Arun Aggarwal, owner, Bachelorr's Juice Centre
"We have never received any complaints before. We use water provided by the BMC to wash our fruits and clean our juice machines. The fruits come from Vashi market. I will try and trace the contamination to its source. No customer ever will be given contaminated juice."

Expertspeak
MiD DAY spoke to several health experts about the possible ramifications of the lab findings, and the possible ways in which the pathogens had entered the juice samples.

Dr Eileen Canday,
nutrionist at Breach Candy hospital
It is impossible that the coliform or yeast is present in the mosambi at its source in the orchard. Such contamination can only stem from the grinder, knife or the board used for cutting fruits.

Dr Shetye, microbiologist
It is difficult to identify the exact cause of contamination. Bacteria can thrive in the ice or the water used to dilute the juice. They may also be present in the water used to wash the glasses. The vendor selling the juice could be a carrier of organisms.

Dr Duru Shah, senior gynaecologist
The coliform found in the mosambi juice can corrode the intestinal lines, leading to diarrhoea. The source of contamination may be the irregular cleaning of utensils. We always advise our patients to consume fresh juice made at home.

Dr Abha Nagral, gastroenterologist, Jaslok hospital
The presence of coliform indicates lack of sanitation and hygiene. One of the pathways is unwashed hands. Flies often sit on human excreta and then perch on exposed food items, contaminating them.

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