'Contamination still a major challenge for food safety'

Last Updated : 07 April 2015, 02:24 IST
Last Updated : 07 April 2015, 02:24 IST

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Contamination of food still remains a major challenge in maintaining food safety, observed the Centre For Science and Environment (CSE) on the eve of World Health Day. The unscrupulous use of pesticides and antibiotics has also led to compromise on food safety.

Meanwhile, the increasing consumption of junk food adds to the challenge.
According to figures available with the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 2 million people – 1.5 million of them children – die each year in the world due to diarrhoea from contaminated food and water. In 2013, about 10 per cent of the deaths in India of children below 5 years were due to diarrhoea.

“Scientific evidence has shown that contamination of food is a serious issue in India as unchecked microbial activity, and the use of pesticides and antibiotics seriously compromise food safety,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE.

Limited understanding
This year’s theme of World Health Day is food safety. Currently, there is limited understanding of the total estimates in deaths from food safety-related issues.  

“India also does not know the exact burden of all foodborne illnesses,” said Bhushan.
CSE researchers have pointed out the unregulated use of pesticides. Pesticides are linked to long-term health effects such as endocrine disruption, birth defects and cancer.

Besides raw agriculture produce, pesticides have been found in packaged food products such as soft drinks and bottled water. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics for mass disease prevention is also a common practice. With drug resistance, it is more difficult to treat foodborne diseases.

The other major concern that has cropped up is contamination of street food. Few people are aware of the long-term risks of this, pointed out researchers.

There is a need to strengthen the monitoring mechanism now, according to CSE researchers. Food testing laboratories across the country which can enforce food safety regulations can also help resolve the problem to an extent.

There should also be international trade policies which promote and make available good food at cheap rates.

Published 07 April 2015, 02:24 IST

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