Survey of street vendors begins in Salem

Likely to take over a month for completion

Collecting details:A survey of street vendors in Salem began on Wednesday.- PHOTO: P.GOUTHAM

Collecting details:A survey of street vendors in Salem began on Wednesday.- PHOTO: P.GOUTHAM

As a first step towards regulating street vendors, a global positioning system (GPS) satellite survey to enumerate them, is being carried out in the Corporation limits.

The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 mandates conducting survey and framing guidelines to protect their rights.

A Chennai-based private company was given the responsibility of collecting details regarding the vendors.

The enumerators, with the help of area map, identify the vendors and take photographs of them.

Personal details of vendor, family details, educational qualification of family members, whether part-time of full time or season business, health aspects, and other detailed were entered in a hand-held machine that is tagged to the server.

An acknowledgement is given to the vendor also. Currently, a team of enumerators is on the job while more teams would be on field in the coming days.

Officials said that in accordance with the guidelines by the National Urban Livelihood Mission, the survey has been handed over to a specialized agency.

The Act mandates forming a Town Vending Committee that should frame guidelines for relocating vendors and also to protect their rights.

The survey would be sent to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation for framing an action plan, they added.

The survey is expected to take more than one month as vendors are spread across 60 wards in Corporation limits.

Food Safety – Wine Standards to be Set For Indian Wines

Wine Standards to be Set For Indian Wines

There has been no culture of wine drinking in India so Indian wine production is still in an unknown territory. The Indian consumer has begun to understand the difference between good and bad wines only now even though wine production started in India in 1980s.  Most of the Indian wine is produced in Maharashtra and Karnataka and the entire wine market in India stands only at Rs. 2000crore.

Indian wines presently are being produced without standards so there is no guarantee of their quality. Since there are no standards, the grape growers do not grow grapes based on those standards and wineries produce wines as they deem fit and without standards. However, the Indian Grape Processing Board (IGPB), which has members from the private as well as the public sector, has formulated standards which it has forwarded to the Ministry of Food Processing.

Since India has joined the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) the proposed standards are probably based on the guidelines set by OIV. However, IGPB has also kept in mind the food regulations as established by FSSAI.

The standards are now being examined by the scientific committee to whom the proposals have been sent by the FSSAI. The labelling committee is also examining the proposals before they can become standards. However, wine producers are worried that the standards may not be ready before the 1st July 2015 deadline. Wine producers have to conform to the new standards before this date if they want to continue to sell their wine in India.

The wine industry produces various kinds of wine which includes dry wine, sparkling wine, sweet wine and liqueur wine and none of these has standards individually or collectively. Since each of the wines has a different production procedure, the standards will have to define this also. There are also many wines that are imported. Wine is produced with various types of ingredients like Fruits, Sugar, Yeast, Acids, salts. Standards have to be set for all these ingredients.

The standards that are to come into effect by July 1, 2015 are presently being studied by the various committees. The standards would come into force only after the FSSAI receives the reports from the various committees and then drafts a notification to place in the public domain. However, there is still a lot of work to be done as wine does not even have a proper definition yet seeing that there are various types of wines.

Besides having standards another very important point about wines is that if they are not handled properly they can deteriorate.  While the wine producers can ensure compliance but the wine is out of their hands once it leaves the wineries. They have no way to see that it is being handled and stored properly to maintain the flavour and quality.

The IGPB would like that the wineries to be checked periodically and audits carried out just like in France to maintain a high quality in Indian wines. Once the Indian standards come into effect inferior quality oxidized wines and sub standard wines from overseas would no longer be permitted to be sold here. Standards are also important to ensure that consumers are drinking safe wine that has a beneficial effect on their health.

Are nuts and seeds good for you?

Are nuts and seeds good for you?Here’s the bad news:

Nuts are high in phytic acid which can pose a variety of problems like inhibiting mineral absorption from other foods and causing indigestion, loose motions and an overactive gut. Apart from nuts, phytic acid is found in grains, legumes, oat flakes, coconut and corn. Soaking and roasting the nuts can reduce the levels of this acid and make them easier to digest. In almonds, most of the phytic acid is in the skin so soaking and then peeling the skin off is your best bet to avoid phytic acid.

Nuts are high in calories and fat so eating them in large quantities could throw your diet to the wind. Cashew nuts are the worst culprits in this regard.

Nut allergy

Allergy to nuts is a specific and common problem seen all over the world. Peanut allergy is very common and people who are allergic to it should read all food labels carefully. If you are allergic to nuts, eliminate them from your diet completely.

Salted nuts are dangerous if you have high blood pressure as the excess sodium can raise the blood pressure. Always buy the unsalted variety as they are healthier and easier to digest.

Nuts contain high amounts of oxalates so for people who have a history of kidney stones should eat them once in a way only. Oxates collect in the muscles, bones and glands and are responsible for a muscle problem called fibromyalgia.

A toxic substance called aflatoxin produced by a fungus called Aspergillosis can grow on nuts. So always buy good quality nuts from reputed company.

Nuts can also contain pesticides that are usually found in their oils. Nuts are not cheap and if you buy the organic variety they may be prohibitively expensive so eat them in moderation.

Do not eat more than two servings or two handfuls of nuts on a weekly basis. Remember that you may also be consuming nuts in the form of nut butters like peanut butter, milk for e.g. almond milk and even on baked goods like breads and cookies.

Nuts like walnuts should be stored in the refrigerator, as they get rancid easily especially if stored in warm areas like near the stove.

Nuts contain trypsin inhibitors. The latter prevents proper digestion of proteins, which means the protein from nuts may not even be digested by your system. So the moral here is that eat nuts moderately. Though they have a whole lot of benefits, over eating may lead to complications.

‘Arsenic-contaminated rice major concern for India’

Cultivating rice varieties that accumulate less amount of arsenic can tackle the challenge of exposure to the carcinogen that affects the population in over five Indian states, an expert said here Wednesday.

Though drinking water contamination is known to be the prime cause of arsenic exposure, toxic effects have been observed in people whose only source of the carcinogen is rice.

“India’s major problem in terms of environmental mutagens (mutating agent) is arsenic. Five states have been affected and more reports are coming in everyday.

“Very recently we have proven a link between rice containing high levels of arsenic and DNA damage and this becomes crucial since rice is a staple in India,” Asian Association of Environmental Mutagens Societies (AAEMS) president Ashok K. Giri told IANS on the sidelines of the 4th Asian Conference on Environmental Mutagens at the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) here.

Elaborating on the findings, he said rice is the crop most susceptible to absorbing arsenic during cultivation.

Giri noted that residents in rural West Bengal who consumed rice contaminated with more than 200 microgram/kg of arsenic showed higher frequencies of DNA damage.

“But there should not be any panic because there are plenty of rice varieties which accumulate less arsenic so if you can cultivate those then there shouldn’t be a problem,” said Giri, also an emeritus scientist, Molecular and Human Genetics Division, of the institute.

Chronic arsenic exposure through groundwater contamination affects around 160 million people worldwide and majority of them reside in southeast Asia, particularly, Bangladesh, India, China and Taiwan.

In addition, air pollution and fluoride toxicity are other issues that need immediate attention, he said.

“Our target – Safe & hygienic food by May 1, 2015”

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Maharashtra, the body responsible for the enforcement of food safety standards in the state, sometime back saw Dr Purushottam Bhapkar taking over as the commissioner.
In the four months that he has been at the helm, a number of raids have been carried out across the state by food safety officers (FSOs), and several complaints have been lodged against food business operators (FBOs) found flouting the rules.
In an interaction with Harcha Bhaskar, Dr Bhapkar, spoke about the challenges faced by the state FDA, such as adulterated and unsafe milk menace and manpower crunch in the organisation.Excerpts:
Its three years since the Food Safety and Standards Regulations (FSSR), 2011, were implemented, but food safety in Maharashtra is unsatisfactory, as is evidenced by the complaints of adulteration and lack of hygiene. How are you ensuring better compliance? 
FDA Maharashtra is involved in the implementation of FSSR, 2011, and maintaining food safety and hygiene.
A number of campaigns have been launched and raids carried out by FDA to curb adulteration and maintain the hygiene of food materials.
During the Diwali raid this year, about 1,695 samples of food, made for the festival, and goods worth Rs 1,51,62,077 were seized and tested across the state.
The state FDA has upped vigilance, and is planning to carry out regular raids to make FBOs more serious about the implementation of the food safety standards.
In fact, we have made a new arrangement, wherein an FSO can raid any establishment in any area at any time, irrespective of whether it has been allocated to him or not.
Maharashtra has always been at par with other states, but there is scope for improvement.
We are also planning to undertake a massive campaign, keeping two perspectives in mind. These are food safety and food literacy.
While the former is for FBOs, the latter is for consumers. We would impart training and guidance to FBOs about the various food safety regulations and how to comply with the same, and educate the consumers about various kinds of adulteration and their hazards, how to tackle the same, and how to register complaints.
We have set ourselves a target – to provide the citizens of the state safe and hygienic food, which is one of their basic rights. We hope to achieve it by May 1, 2015 (observed as Maharashtra Day).
The infrastructure, including manpower and testing laboratories, is not upto the mark. How do you intend to tackle this issue? 
FDA Maharashtra operates its own food testing laboratory in Mumbai.
Moreover, there are 22 National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories- (NABL) accredited laboratories, 10 state public health labs, and one lab set up by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
In government labs, testing and sampling is undertaken for a nominal fee of Rs 3,000, as stipulated by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
What is the current status of licensing and registration in Maharashtra? Would the state be able to achieve the licensing and registration target by the 2015 deadline?
Online licensing and registration is underway throughout Maharashtra. About 1,69,161 licences have been issued and 5,90,855 establishments have been registered all over the state in the last three years. Fees amounting to Rs 133 core have been collected so far.
What steps have been taken for speedy registration and licensing? 
Online registration and licensing is a Maharashtra-wide initiative to meet the given deadline.
What action would be taken against FBOs who fail to meet the deadline?
It is the domain of FSSAI, the country’s apex food regulator, based in New Delhi. In accordance with the Centre’s directions, action would be taken against the offenders who haven’t applied for licences and registered within the stipulated deadline.
The labelling of imported foods, piling up of stocks of imported foods and product approval are crucial issues that FSSAI is grappling with. In this regard, what challenges is Maharashtra FDA facing?
These are matters pertaining to FSSAI. FDA Maharashtra is not involved in issues related to the import and approval of food products.
FSSAI has authorised officers to look into these matters at its headquarters in the capital.
A lot is being said about the functioning of FSSAI and the state FDA/FDCA. What do you think should be done at the state level to ensure better food safety in India?
FDA Maharashtra is facing difficulties in FDA in enforcing food safety due to the lack of manpower, technology, logistics and infrastructure.
Recently, there were vacancies in the state FDA for 265 FSOs, 62 designated officers (DOs) and eight joint commissioners (JCs) (food).
One post of JC (food), 22 posts of DO and 77 posts of FSO are still vacant. For this, we have approached the Maharashtra Public Service Commission, which would be recruiting officers shortly.
What kind of cooperation do you expect from FBOs to ensure better food safety in the state?
We are expecting the involvement of various bodies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concerned with FBOs with respect to licencing and registration.
With this chain network, we would reach every corner of the state and impart training and education about food safety hygiene to the FBO, and the ill-effects of adulteration to the consumers. This, in turn, would ensure that the rules and regulations are complied with.
Currently, there is a ban on tobacco and gutkha in the state under the FSSR, 2011. However, people continue to sell it illegally. What steps is FDA taking to overcome this menace?
Since 2012, when the gutkha and tobacco ban came into effect, FDA Maharashtra has seized gutkha and allied products worth Rs 44.33 crore.
So far, about 1,078 first information reports (FIR) have being lodged against the accused across the state. These cases would be handled strictly to bring law and order in the state.
What challenges is FDA Maharashtra currently facing with regard to food safety? What steps are being taken to overcome them?
Milk adulteration
Milk adulteration is one of the major issues we are facing. In the coming months, FDA Maharashtra would be making plans to curb rising milk adulteration and the sale of unhygienic products.
Talks are underway with several NGOs and consumer organisations, such as Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, who would be engaging with FDA Maharashtra in initiatives to stop milk adulteration.
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