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Don’t add masala to bad reputation

Don’t add masala to bad reputation

Items for export should be subjected to stringent quality checks and scrutiny. Export of food products requires registration with the FSSAI and a licence from it, and the products have to comply with safety standards.

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Last Updated : 25 April 2024, 20:28 IST
Last Updated : 25 April 2024, 20:28 IST
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Indian exports have again attracted adverse attention, with Hong Kong and Singapore imposing bans on a number of spices and condiments exported from the country as they contained high levels of cancer-causing pesticide residues. The banned items included products of well-known brands such as MDH and Everest. Indian exports have been detected to contain cancer-causing chemicals or materials otherwise harmful to health in the past, too. There are reports that ethylene oxide, the chemical whose presence was detected in Hong Kong and Singapore, was found in as many as 527 Indian items exported to the European Union (EU). They were not allowed to be sold in the EU countries. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has now decided to conduct quality checks on items to determine whether they contain dangerous chemicals. Why wasn’t this done in the past? 

The contamination of food articles happens at various stages and care should be taken and efforts made at every stage to prevent it. But this is not done and the supervisory and regulatory efforts are shoddy. The use of pesticides has increased in recent years even as pests have developed resistance to them. Fumigation using ethylene oxide has been on the rise and this has left chemical residues in the food products. Other methods of fumigation and sterilisation are available but are costly. But that is no excuse for leaving harmful residues in food products and exporting them. Indian products have been found to be harmful or substandard in many countries. Contaminated cough syrup exported from the country caused the death of over a hundred children in Gambia and Uzbekistan in the recent past. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had said that the medicines contained unacceptable levels of poisonous chemicals. 

Items for export should be subjected to stringent quality checks and scrutiny. Export of food products requires registration with the FSSAI and a licence from it, and the products have to comply with safety standards. The authority should ensure that these standards are maintained. The noise over the ban and the contamination usually dies down in a few days. The country’s credibility and prestige suffer when it exports bad, adulterated or contaminated food products to other countries. But it is not just a matter of the country’s image. Such products can cause damage to health and loss of lives. There is another serious issue also. Export items are considered to be of better quality than items for the domestic market. The items sold and consumed within the country are many times more than the items exported to other countries. There is a greater danger to people in the country from these items than to those in other countries. 

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