By Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh
Food is essential for people to maintain sustainable and healthy livings. Ensuring food safety is therefore important and many people have great concern with it. The Ministry of health, Labor and welfare (MHLW) formulates and implement various food safety policies based on scientific knowledge in collaboration with many relevant bodies including consumers, food business operators and other stakeholders from various field.
Food adulteration, whether motivated by economic fraud or malicious food tempering can have serious effects on health and safety. There are a huge number of possible substances that may be used for food adulteration and the list continues to expand. Adulterants are often selected based on their ability to increase the apparent value of a product, their ability to be substituted for a more expensive ingredients or product, ability to mark certain substances or their risk. Adulteration is a legal term –meaning that a food product fails to meet the legal standards.
One form of adulteration is an addition of another substance to a food item in order to increase the quantity of the food item in raw form or prepared, which may result in the loss of actual quality of the food item. These substances may be available food items or non-food items. Among meat and meat products some of the items used to adulterate are water or ice, carcases or carcasses of animals other than the animal to be consumed. Food adulteration is an act of adding or mixing of poor quality, inferior harmful, sub-standard, useless or unnecessary substances to foods. This act of spoiling the natural quality of food item is considered food adulteration.
Milk adulteration is one of the most common adulterations in India. Milk is most commonly diluted with water, this leads lose in its nutritional value and water contaminants milk ensuring health problems. Apart from water, many kind of liquids such as soya milk, starch, groundnuts milk and wheat flour are added to milk. This also makes the milk less nutritious and it results in the quickest contamination of milk. It was recently reported in local newspapers in Manipur about adulterating milk, utong ngari(fermented dry fish), Soibum(fermented bamboo shoots)with urea and broiler feeds with peril hormones etc.
It is also commonly said that the illicit local as well as Indian made Foreign liquors available in Manipur are also adulterated with hazardous substances to exalt the incitement.Though There is no official report but apprehensions among the common people is that there may be possibilities of using mutagens chemicals in the fishes (to prevent decomposition)which are being brought from outside the states in Manipur also. Not only milk common food items which are commonly adulterated are: Bengal Gram dhal and Thoordhal; tea; coffee powder;khoa;wheat and other food grains;sugar;black powder; mustard powder; turmeric powder; chili powder etc. Adulteration of foods can either be intentional, unintentional or natural. Food adulteration can have a range of harmful effects on health. It can not only lead to toxicity in the body but also can lead the body to paralysis or eventually death. Thus it becomes very important to detect these adulterants.
Food safety is used as a scientific discipline describing handle, preparation and storage of food in ways that prevent food-borne illness. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potential health hazards. In this way food safety often overlaps with food defense to prevent harm to consumer. The tracks within this line of thought are safety between Industry and the market and then between the market and consumers.
In considering industry to market practices, food safety consideration includes the origins of food including the practices relating to food labeling, food hygiene, food additives and pesticides residues as well as policies on biotechnology of food and guidelines for the management of governmental imports and export inspection and certification system for foods. In considering market to consumer practices the usual thought is that food ought to be safe in the market and the concern is safe delivery and preparation of the food for the consumers. Food can transmit pathogens which can result in the illness or death of the person or other animals. The main mediums are bacteria, viruses, mold and fungus (it can also serve as a growth and reproductive medium for pathogens).
Food contamination happens when food are corrupted with another substance. It can happen in the process of production, transportation, packaging, storage, sales and cooking process. The contamination can be physical, chemical and biological. When the foreign objects such as hair, plant stalks or pieces of plastics and metals comes into the food it is a physical contaminant. If the foreign objects are bacteria, the case wills a physical and biological contamination.
Chemical contamination happens when food is contaminated with a natural or artificial chemical substance. Common sources of chemical contamination can includes pesticides, herbicides, veterinary drugs contamination from environmental sources (water, air or soil pollution), cross contamination during food processing , migration from food packaging materials, presence of natural toxins or use of unapproved food additives and adulterants.
Biological contamination refers to food that has been contaminated by substances produced by living creatures such as humans, rodents, pests or micro-organisms. This includes bacterial contamination, viral contamination or parasite contamination that is transferred through saliva, pest dropping, blood or facial matter. Bacterial contamination is the most common cause of food poisoning worldwide.
If an environment is high in starch or protein, water, oxygen has a neutral pH level and maintains a temperature between 50C and 600C (danger zone) for even a brief period of time (approximately 0-20 min) bacteria are likely to survive. Proper storage, sanitary tools and work spaces, heating and cooling properly to adequate temperatures and avoiding contact with other uncooked foods can greatly reduce the chances of contamination.
Tightly sealed water and air proof containers are good measures to limit the chances of both physical and biological contamination during storage. Using clean, sanitary surfaces and tools free of debris, chemicals, standing liquids and other food types can help reduce the chance of all forms of contamination. Enforcing the standing legalities to check food adulteration and the food safety effectively is of great concern from public health point of view.
(The writer is faculty at NEILIT, Akampat, Imphal)