The High Court has moved swift to take cognizance of the crime of food adulteration by three companies manufacturing food products for sale in the State. It has imposed penalty of 20 crore rupees each after going through the report of the Director SKIMS, Srinagar based on the findings of the Central Food Laboratory Kolkata, to which the samples had been sent. The three food processing companies under discussion are the Khyber Milk manufactured by Khyber Agro Farms, Turmeric powder manufactured by AVON Agro Industries Pvt. Ltd Delhi, and Saunf powder manufactured by M/s Kanwal Agro Food Industries Anantnag.
Cases of food adulteration have come to light in the past at many times but prosecution of implicated persons or companies has seldom been done or brought to public notice. But here in these three cases, the law has been freely allowed to run and the process of prosecuting the defaulters has been fully adhered to. Food adulteration is a serious crime. It affects the entire generation. The magnitude of threat to health, hidden in adulterated food is rarely known to ordinary consumers. On moral grounds, food adulteration is a heinous crime. Millions of children, teenagers, young and old people are affected. The Director of SKIMS was desired by the High Court to file report about the nature of diseases caused by the colouring and other material which were found in the spices and the toned milk. He has opined that besides being carcinogenic these colouring agents can damage various body organs and can cause heart diseases. Tratrazine found in the turmeric power causes allergic and other ailments.
Various immunologic responses have been attributed to Tratrazine ingestion. These are all very disturbing and debilitating effects. The SKIMS report, however, said that Central Food Laboratory Kolkata report on Khyber Milk speaks of presence of detergent in the milk.
These two reports became the basis for the court judgment. The three food processing companies are required to deposit Rs. 20 crore each by way of penalty for food adulteration. With these detections two questions need to be answered. One is how should the millions of consumers be compensated for the damage done to their health. The second and more disturbing question is how the public will be convinced that there is not adulteration in other food stuff and eatables. Does not this experience desire that similar laboratory tests should be conducted periodically and by random selection of food items to ensure that there is no adulteration. The worse is that fraudulent companies do great deal of publicity of their product. We think that imposition of penalty is too soft a punishment considering the magnitude of crime committed. At least besides the penalty, their licenses should be withdrawn.