Visakhapatnam: Many food stores in the much projected smart city are selling food items that are either unsafe, sub-standard or misbranded against the Rules and Regulations of Food Safety and Standards Act -2011.
This was revealed by officials from the food safety department, which works under the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC).
During random voluntary inspections conducted by the department in this financial year, nearly 60 samples of food items were collected following complaints. The samples were sent to the State Food Laboratory at Nacharam in Hyderabad. The officials are waiting for the results that will come on June 23. Last fiscal, they collected samples of nearly 200 food items after which action was taken against 60 food sellers.
The collected samples were of various food items like non-veg biryani, mangoes, bananas, ice creams, pulses, dairy products, soft drinks, water sachets and bottles, edible oils, curd, dry fruits, breakfast food items like idli, dosa, poori, and spices.
According to food safety officers, many food stores including shopping malls, multiplex theatres, supermarkets and even drinking water traders indulge in selling items that do not adhere to the promised standards.
Most of the samples were collected from areas like Gopalapatnam, Gajuwaka, Madhurawada, Maddilapalem, Resapuvanipalem, Dwarakanagar, Siripuram Junction, Pedawaltair, Isukathota, Madhavadhara, NAD Junction, Gnanapuram, Suryabagh, 104 Area, Chinawaltair, RK Beach, Poorna Market, Seethammadhara, Jagadamba Centre, MVP Colony, Dabagardens, Kancharapalem, and Dondaparthy.
Speaking to TOI, food safety officer S Janardhana Rao said the laboratory tests of nearly 35% to 40% of the samples in general confirm that the foods are either sub-standard, unsafe or misbranded every year. The tests are made to check the presence of hazardous elements such as pesticides and chemicals against the norms, Rao said, adding that the department will issue notices to the shopkeepers as well as collect a compounding fee ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 2 lakh, depending on the seriousness of the case.
Elaborating on the various unauthorized methods practised by the food traders, Rao said fruit sellers use ‘paraffin’ for waxing imported fruits. Wax developed from bees is allowed as it is a natural wax, he suggested.
Some traders use artificial colours in food items such as Veg Manchuria, Chicken Pakoda and Biryani against the norms. Only 0.2 gram of permitted colours per kg of food is accepted. This part, SO2 (sulphur dioxide) is being vastly used by food traders to preserve food for more days. This is also very hazardous, Janardhana Rao said.
“Shockingly, many branded food items available at super markets are also being found ‘unsafe’. People should keep a watch on those products and alert the GVMC on phone numbers 9912199283, 284 or 285,” Janardhana Rao said.
GVMC commissioner Pravin Kumar said the corporation has already issued instructions to all the food stores, hotels and restaurants in the city not to sell hazardous food to people. Stringent action will be taken by GVMC if anybody is found. Task force teams were also set up in the city to keep a vigil on the selling of unsafe food to the citizens, Pravin Kumar said.