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Health department fails to meet food safety targets

Health department officials continue to adopt a casual approach towards the monthly targets set by the food safety branch as all districts have completely failed to achieve targets.
Out of the state-wide target for collection of 1,740 samples set by the health department in January, only 816 samples were collected by authorities in the districts. Of these 46% collected samples, 25% tested ‘fail’ and were declared unfit for consumption.
Districts blatantly failing to achieve targets in January include Jalandhar, Bathinda, Ludhiana, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Pathankot, Patiala, Moga, Mansa and Muktsar.
Jalandhar health department was given a target of 150 food samples, but it collected only 75 samples, out of which 12 were found unfit. Ludhiana health department had a target of 250 food samples, but it collected only 87, out of which 40 failed to pass the food safety test. Similarly, 41 samples were collected by Bathinda health department out of a target of 100.
It is not the first time that of ficials are showing apathy towards food safety as in the period from January 1 to December 31, 2015, out of 15,560 target samples, Jalandhar had collected 9,936, out of which 28% samples tested failed.
Moreover, the Food Safety and Standards Act has the provision of compulsory registration for all food businesses to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption, but districts have been lagging behind in ensuring complete registration.
On March 6, 2014, online registration of food businesses was begun. Jalandhar food safety administration issued 434 licences and did 2,124 registrations of food businesses till February 26 this year. Businesses with a turnover of more than Rs 12 lakh are issued licenses.
Sources in the health department said only milk, milk products, bakery products, sweets and other such samples were being collected as per guidelines issued by higher officials.
They further said even though senior officials had fixed a minimum target to be completed every month, apathetic officials failed to meet the targets.
They added that most drives were undertaken on the heels of Diwali only when the sale of sweets shot up and manufacturers prepared items in bulk with complete disregard of hygiene and food safety.
A health department official said the sampling drive against adulterated food products was being hampered due to interference of political leaders. He added that huge workload and shortage of staff were other reasons behind the failure in achieving targets.

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