The food safety seems to remain a low concern for the health department as the most of the districts in the state have failed to achieve monthly targets for collection of food samples or any other substance.
Out of 1,740 targets set by the health department, only 782 samples were taken up by the districts. Among these 45% collected samples, 31% failed test and were unfit for the consumption.
The major failing districts, include Jalandhar, Amritsar, Bathinda, Ludhiana, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Pathankot, Sangrur, Tarn Taran, Mansa and Muktsar.
The Jalandhar health department was given the target of 100 food samples, but it collected only 56 samples in which 14 were found unfit. The Ludhiana department had a target of 250 food samples, but it collected only 73 in which 35 failed to pass standard test and similarly, 40 samples were collected by the Bathinda health department out of a target of 100.
Roopnagar was a district that had asked to collect 40 samples, but the numbers remained zero. In 2013-14, the shortfall in achieving target was around 80% in the most of the districts.
Moreover, the Food Safety Act has the provision of compulsory registration for all food businesses to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption, but most of the districts have been lagging behind in ensuring complete registration.
Since online provision of registration since March 6, 2014, only 363 licences and 1,970 registrations were done by Jalandhar food safety officers till October 31, while it’s neighbouring district Ludhiana did 1,086 food licences and 2,275 food registrations in the same period.
The sources in department claimed that mostly local milk and milk products, bakery products, sweets and other samples were being collected every year as per guidelines issued by higher officials.
They told that senior officials fixed a minimum target every month but due to the lackadaisical attitude of officials, they usually fail to cover the target.
They added that the most drives start near Diwali festival when the sale of sweets gets increased and sweet manufacturers prepare items in bulk with complete disregard of hygiene and food safety. Sources revealed that most of the food processing outlets ignore the health of people in order to earn profit.
An official on condition of anonymity said that due to an interference of political leaders, the sampling drive against adulterated products is being affected. He added that the workload of official work and the shortage of staff are other reasons behind failure in achieving the targets.