Don't bite into that adulterated food!

Pure for Sure

For a majority of people, food adulteration is often  linked with the impurities found in grains and to the food sold through the public distribution system (PDS). It is a well established fact that even people with Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards, who are entitled to buy food through the PDS, avoid buying items like rice, if they can afford it, as it is sometimes infested with insects and stones.

For those of us, who buy our daily groceries from retail stores, the packaged food has the psychological comfort of being clean. But that is not always the case. Consumers are often not aware of the kind of adulteration that is present in pre-packaged food and food that is categorised as ‘loose’. That is, food that is sold without any branding or packaging.

Says Y G Muralidhar, a consumer rights activist, “Most people tend to think of adulteration as contaminant in food. But any food that is at a sub standard level, that is below the standards set, but not necessarily harmful or below the nutritional value promised is adulteration,”

Practically, all items sold independently, without any branding is subject to some level of adulteration and not with something outrightly harmful, but falling short of the standards all the same. Ghee and butter is adulterated with margarine, potato starch and vanaspathi. Edible oils are mixed with castor oil and argemone (prickly poppy) oil, sugar with chalk powder and honey with sugar syrup.

Colouring is another common phenomenon with hotel foods, especially North Indian dishes and roadside foods like Gobi Manchurian. Metanil yellow, a food colour is added to parboiled rice, dal, and turmeric. Chemicals are added to seedless dates to make them soft.

Even a common South Indian household item like jaggery is not spared. “I never realised that jaggery in its pure form is almost black in colour. It was only after a cook pointed out that it is full of chemicals, that I realised that the golden yellow is not its actual colour.” says Jyothi, a teacher who found a cook to make jaggery without the additives.

Jaggery is prepared using additives like sodium bicarbonate, sodium hydrosulfite and sodium formaldehyde sulfoxylate. In addition, organic additives like castor and coconut oil are used to get the light golden yellow colour and crystalline texture of jaggery.

Most of us will be unable to detect this contamination and even if we do, there is nothing much we usually do apart from avoiding the store or complaining to the store owner.
The other option is lodge a complaint with the Health Department of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) or the Public Health Institute, located at K R
Circle.

Even complaints regarding hygiene in restaurants and any eateries can be lodged with the BBMP, whose health inspectors, take samples if necessary for testing.  For those interested in knowing more about contaminant in foods, log on to http://www.foodsafetyindia.nic.in

Filtered sand: An easy, but illegal trade
Sandeep Moudgal

Two years ago, a building came crashing down in Koramangala killing seven people. The collapse was attributed to poor quality of the structure. More specifically, to the use of filtered sand, a prohibited commodity under State government’s rules.

While sand drawn from riverbeds is the preferred raw material, nearly 15 per cent of the sand used for construction in the City is apparently of the filtered variety, dug from government lands in the State.

This year alone, the state’s Mines and Geology Department has booked as many as 44 criminal cases against lorry owners and truckers for transporting filtered sand into the City. The cases were booked under section 373 of the CrPC, and/or with a fine ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 per load of sand.

Low on investment
The department issues about 15 to 20 permits every month to lorry owners for drawing sand from riverbeds. While a permit to draw sand from riverbeds costs anywhere between Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000, filtered sand can be be acquired for just Rs 5,000!
The entire process of producing filtered sand is easy and requires very few people. With just two people, a kerosene or diesel generator and stolen electricity, a household can produce two truck loads of filtered sand.

With their work mostly done under the cover of darkness, filtered sand producers make anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 per truckload, said sources. In Hoskote taluk, a mother and daughter were caught producing filtered sand with the help of a small generator to pump water, while the husband was drunk and smoked a bidi under a tree. Such episodes illustrate how low quality sand production provides for an easy life for men.

On information that filtered sand production had increased this year, the Department had conducted as many as 500 raids in Bangalore North alone. Nearly 35 per cent of these raids were concentrated in Hoskote.

Cementing your dream house
G Manjusainath

Churned out of bitter experiences, the Kannada maxim -‘Mane Katti Nodu, Maduve Maadi Nodu’- holds good even today. The maxim reflects the struggles one undergoes while constructing a house or getting married.

It is said a wedding is a hundred times less painful than the construction of a house, thanks to the deceptions in the building process. Take the case of cement where the consumers have a varied and vivid range of brands with tall claims. A general criterion to select a good quality cement is the grade. A cement with a grade is considered to be the best and this search for grade is in fact the source of deception.

For general usage there are usually four types of cement available in the market these days- namely ‘Ordinary Portland Cement ‘(OPC), ‘Pozzolana Portland Cement’ (PPC), Ash-based portland cement and Portland-lime cement, popularly known as white cement. The OPC alone is entitled to have grades whereas others are not permitted for it.

There are three grades in the OPC- 33, 43 and 53 grade cement. While 33 grade and 43 grade can be used for house construction, 53 grade cement is specifically meant for strong structures like bridges and dams. Houses can be built with the 53 grade cement, but dams and other solid structures can never be built with PPC or any other cement.
The PPC cement and thermal ash-based Portland cement can also be used for ordinary residential structures, whereas the white cement is used widely as a primer for painting the outer structure of a building.

People often look for grade cement without verifying whether they get the material they were looking for. As the cement manufacturers and dealers are aware about people’s search for ‘grade’ cement, they put grade on the PPC and the ash-based portland cement. According to the officials in the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), printing grade on the PPC bags is illegal which may even lead to the closure of the cement company.
What should you do?

As the deception may have dangerous consequences, a consumer should be alert while purchasing cement. The buyers should check whether OPC or the PPC is written on the bag. If they notice grade printed on a PPC bag they can lodge a complaint with the Bureau of Indian Standards by approaching its local office or filing a complaint online at the BIS website (http://bis.org.in).

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