Concern over threats to food safety

Keralites take credit of having the best literacy and health care credentials in India but they are devouring loads of unhealthy food.

By Kerala Buzz Tk Devasia

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Published: Sat 28 Jul 2012, 12:42 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:38 AM

Vegetables and fruits they buy mostly from other states are contaminated with not only fertilisers and pesticides used at the source of production but also hazardous chemicals used at the retail outlets in the state for artificially ripening and enhancing the tastes.

Now the food they eat outside the homes has also turned out to be hazardous with the hotels and eateries adding to the poison. The recent raids on some of these hotels by the officials of the food safety commissioner and the local bodies have revealed that the food they serve is unfit for human consumption.

The raids spurred by the death of a youth after eating chicken-roll called shawarma from a popular eatery in the state capital showed that a large number of hotels were serving rotten food laced with poisonous chemicals. The officials found that the food was also prepared in highly unhygienic conditions in most hotels.

This is not confined to small and cheap hotels but also five star hotels that host high spending tourists from abroad. The local body officials found decayed food in several such hotels in Trivandrum and Cochin, which attracts a large number of foreign tourists and business men.

The unhealthy practice followed by the hoteliers is bound to affect tourism, which has emerged as a key driver of the economy in the last few years.

The clean and healthy image that the tourism industry projected to woo the tourists has definitely taken a beating and if something drastic is not done urgently to clean the rot it may reflect on the tourist arrivals in the state affecting the economy.

The unhealthy food Keralites eat is also indirectly affecting the economy with the diseases it has brought pushing up the health costs. Health experts attribute obesity, diabetes and many other diseases, which already have assumed alarming proportion in the state, to the unhealthy food the people eat.

Ironically the situation on the food front has gone worse after the implementation of the much hyped Food Safety and Standards Act passed by the parliament in 2006 to ensure the safety of the food people eat. The hotels and restaurants in the state were having a free run since it was enforced in the state in August 2011.

While the health department and local bodies, which inspected the food till then, stopped work, the food safety inspectors appointed under the act have been grappling with birth pangs. Though the state needs about 200 food inspectors to cover the entire state, only 96 are in place now.

Consumer activists, therefore, do not think that the current action will yield any tangible result. They feel that the people may get the benefit of the new law if only the government create the necessary infrastructure to enforce its provisions in letter and spirit.

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