Apr 6, 2010

Safe Food: People's initiative to fight food adulteration

I haven't yet met someone who can say that he/she is not a victim of rampant food adulteration. Despite a number of official bodies looking into food adulteration, and the constitution of a National Food Safety and Standards Authority in 2006, the menace of food adulteration has only grown. Everyone complains, but no one is willing to do anything. Somehow, we have accepted it as in inevitable reality, howsoever damaging it may be for our family, that we have no option but to live with.

Jitender Agarwal, a resident of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, is certainly not among them. For almost two years he has been chasing me, and accosting me with the need to do something. I would listen to him patiently, and urge him time and again to take on the responsibility of creating a wider awareness. He wasn't content with only my words of encouragement, and finally roped me to head a registered society -- Safe Food.

Safe Food was formally launched at Meerut on April 4. This is purely a citizen's initiative, and the overwhelming response that I witnessed at the launch gives me strength and hope that people are now willing to take the bull by the horn. Local leaders, from different segments of society and religion, stood up to extend support in any way -- moral, physical and financial.

Speaking at the launch ceremony of Safe Food at Meerut on April 4, 2010

After the launch ceremony was over, I had invited those who feel concerned and outraged, and feel the need to do something, to stay back and join us in a strategy session. I knew this was not something that people who attend and participate in seminars/conferences or even launch ceremonies are used to, however the response was not only encouraging but gives me tremendous hope. We were able to plan for a number of activities with attached timelines, and also people came forward to take on responsibilities voluntarily.

I will have something to share with you after April 30. By that time, various team leaders would be able to work out an activity roadmap. Meerut in many ways is the epicenter of food adulteration. It is therefore not only symbolic but significant that the movement aginst food adulteration has also begun from the same city.

While the people's initiatives are being worked out, Safe Food is simultaneously getting ready to petition the Allahabad High Court. At the same time, Safe Food is looking to network with similar organisations and civil society initiatives in different parts of the country, region and also internationally. I am sure that Safe Food will extend its reach and activities to various parts of the northern region, and gradually emerge as a rallying force throughout the country.

I have always believed in people. I know once they take control, they will end up cleansing the rotten system. Let us all join hands to remove this cancerous growth from our midst. You don't have to wait for any doctor to come and advise you, it is hightime you took on the responsibility yourself. Together we can fight food adulteration, and ensure that what we and our children eat is safe and healthy.

Safe Food can be contact at campaign.safefood@gmail.com You can also reach Jitender Agarwal at +91-9897619265.

1 comment:

witan said...

You are starting a very much needed activity. I wish you the best.
A related matter: There are frequent news reports of police action against sale of "artificially ripened mangoes" and other fruit. Today itself, there is a newspaper report (Times of India, Mumbai edition) saying that artificially ripened "mangoes worth Rs 1,91,400 were seized from a shop near Sindhuwadi at MG Road in Ghatkopar (E), another stock worth Rs 71,500 was seized from one more shop in the same area." The condemned ripening chemical is usually calcium carbide, but even ethrel is not allowed by policemen and public health officials. In one case, police in Chennai sealed shops selling ethrel "to instill fear among the traders". Use of Calcium carbide, it appears, is prohibited under the "Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954." Health officials, including physicians say, “Those eating fruits ripened with calcium carbide and ethrel could suffer from neurological disorders, headache, dizziness, headache, memory-loss and mouth ulcers.” I am a scientist myself, but could not find any evidence in scientific literature or any theoretical reason for this view. I know also that ethrel (aka ethephon) is commonly used in agriculture: wikipedia has an informative article on it, which says, "Although many environmental groups worry about toxicity resulting from use of growth hormones and fertilizers, the toxicity of ethephon is actually very low, and any ethephon used on the plant is converted very quickly to ethylene."
The false fears about "artificially" ripened fruits need to be dispelled.
I am hopeful of being able to participate in a small way in your new endeavour vis-à-vis harmful adulterants to foodstuff and ready-to-eat food.