Hospitals saw almost 20 food poisoning cases daily during last Diwali; now BBMP health panel is going all-out to minimize sale of contaminated sweets
For the last few years, sweet shops in the city have come under fire for selling contaminated sweets during the festive season and last year, cases of food poisoning during Diwali witnessed an all time high with hospitals receiving almost 20 patients daily.
The BBMP officials have collected around 40 samples and found that 80 per cent of sweets contain contaminated ingredients such as substandard mawa, water, oil and sugar
This year the situation is no different despite governments of many states imposing the Food Safety Act, thereby making it mandatory for sweet stalls to obtain Food and Health Department (FHD) certification before selling items. Interestingly, Karnataka is still far behind, as the state has still not formulated a FHD yet.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Committee of the BBMP is all-out and inspecting all sweet shops to minimize the sales of contaminated sweets. "This year we are cracking down on all places selling adulterated sweets," Dr K N Geeta Shashikumar, president, Public Health Committee, BBMP said.
BBMP gets tip-offs about sweets being transported from the outskirts and food inspectors have been rigidly instructed to clamp down heavily on such practice and random sample collection has already begun in the city.
A food inspector from South Bangalore said, "We have collected almost 40 samples and found that 80 per cent of the sweets contain contaminated ingredients such as substandard mawa, water, oil and sugar."
Experts from the Public Health Department (PHD) further explained that the problem with contaminated sweets is not just the ingredients.
"Aluminum contamination is rampant as a result of the adulterated silver foil used for decoration. We are also further testing sweets available in the bulk Khowa/Mawa business, as this is a basic ingredient," said a BBMP official.
The Public Health Institute at Ambedkar Veedhi the testing wing of the BBMP - received all sweet samples picked up by the food inspectors and results show that contamination happens at different levels.
"According to the Prevention of food adulteration Act 1954, Khowa should have not less than 30 per cent fat content regardless of the quantity and should not contain any starch.
Adulteration of sweets begins with contaminated oil and butter yellow dye is added to the oil, while stearin (used to manufacture soaps) is used in vanaspati. Khowa samples tested positive for blotting paper and urea content," said an official from the PHI, refusing to reveal the names of places where the samples were collected.
Areas like Avenue Road, Nagarathpet, Malleshwaram market, Russell Market, KR Market, Gandhi Bazaar and Shivajinagar have separate units where Khowa is prepared in bulk and distributed across the city.
"Residents buy Khowa from small sweet shops and use it for preparation of home sweets. Since the base product itself is adulterated with potentially dangerous substances, gastroenteritis eventually leading to food poisoning occurs almost immediately.
Diwali is just round the corner and already we are receiving almost eight cases of tummy upset each day," said Susheela Krishnaswamy, a nutritionist from a city hospital.
While the BBMP has set off the alarm bells across the city to stay safe this festive season, they are also slamming notices on sweet shops that have procured adulterated Khowa from the outskirts.
Dr B R Jagashetty, Drugs Controller, Karnataka, said, "The state just has an active drug control department and we still do not have a wing that deals with food adulteration.
Dealing with the problem of food adulteration that is on the rise during festivals comes under the Health Department of the BBMP jurisdiction. Unless a strong FHD is in place, this will be a huge concern."