Delhi HC highlights need to ramp up testing of food products

New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Wednesday stressed the need to ramp up testing of food products in the national capital to ascertain their quality, saying the food cycle has become “corrupted” and being the apex body, the FSSAI needs to take steps to ensure that there is enough testing.

A bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan, while specifically raising concerns on the quality of milk and milk products, sought an affidavit from the Delhi government with respect to the level of testing, the number of food-inspecting teams here and the budget of the department concerned.

“The FSSAI needs to ramp up testing. It is minimal. What sort of products are we eating? We do not know. Our food cycle has got so corrupted. You are taking no steps. You are living in some ivory tower. You pick up any food product, there is a problem. There is so much pesticide,” the bench, also comprising Justice Manmeet P S Arora, said.

“You must exercise your supervisory powers. You must ensure enough testing takes place. You are the apex body,” the court added.

The counsel for the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said food testing is carried out by the state food safety commissioners.

Noting that 25 samples per food safety officer (FSO) per month is the prescribed norm for testing, the court remarked that appropriate random testing has to be carried out given the city’s population.

“Look at the population of Delhi. How much food consumption is taking place on a daily basis. How many FSOs are there in Delhi? Sampling needs to be ramped up,” Justice Manmohan said.

“The commissioner, food supplies is directed to file a personal affidavit indicating the level of testing and number of food inspecting teams and the budget of the department,” the court ordered as it asked the official to also join the proceedings on the next date of hearing on August 7.

During the hearing, the amicus curiae (friend of the court) also raised concerns with respect to the use of calcium carbide to artificially ripen mangoes, saying there is nothing on record to show if the required test kits for detecting the use of chemicals have been procured by the authorities.

On being told that currently, the cost of testing any food product, which is between Rs 5,000 and Rs 12,000 depending on the product being tested, has to be borne by the individual seeking such a test, the court orally remarked that such a burden has to be borne by the State.

“Why should it fall on private citizens? The State will pay for it,” it said.

The court was hearing a suo-motu (on its own) case initiated by it in 2010 following a news report on the use of certain pesticides for growing vegetables, which cause serious neurological problems, kidney damage, skin diseases, cancer and such other grievous ailments.

Earlier this year, the court asked the FSSAI to prepare a plan for sampling and testing of all food products in the national capital.

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