FOOD ADULTERATION AND FOOD LAWS
Adulteration is defined as the process by which the quality or the nature of the given substance is altered. Adulteration of food may endanger health if the physiological functions of the consumer are affected due to either addition of a deleterious substance or the removal of a vital component. Adulteration means not only intentional addition of substances which adversely affect the nature of substances and quality of foods, but also their incidental contamination during growth, harvesting, storage, processing, transportation and distribution.
Types of Adulterants
Adulterants may be intentional or unintentional or incidental. The former is a willful act on the part of the adulterator intended to increase the margin of profit. Incidental contamination is usually due to ignorance, negligence or lack of proper facilities.
Intentional adulterants are sand, marble chips, stones, mud, chalk powder, water, mineral oil and coaltar dyes. These adulterants cause harmful effects in the body.
Food Laws and Standards
Effective means of food quality can be achieved by legislative measures, certification schemes and public participation and involvement in the programme. The following acts has been passed by the government of India to prevent food adulteration and to maintain food quality.
1. Prevention of Food Adulteration Act
This act was passed in the year 1954. The act prohibits the manufacture, sale and distribution of not only adulterated foods but also foods contaminated with microorganisms and toxicants and misbranded foods. PFA specifies microbial standards for pasteurized milk, milk powder, skimmed milk powder, infant milk food and malted milk food. According to PFA, an article of food shall be deemed to be adulterated,
1. If the article is not upto the standard prescribed.
2. If the article contains any other substances which affects the nature or quality of the substance.
3. If any inferior or cheaper substance has been substituted wholly or partly.
4. If any constituent of the article has been wholly or partly abstracted.
5. If the article has been prepared, packed or kept under unsanitary conditions whereby it has become contaminated or injurious to health.
6. If the article consists of decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance or insect - infested or otherwise unfit for human consumption.
7. If the article contains any poisonous or other ingredient which renders its contents injurious to health.
8. If any colouring matter other than that prescribed and in amounts not within the prescribed limits of variability is present in the article.
9. If the article contains any prohibited preservative or permitted preservative in excess of the prescribed limits.
If the quality or purity of the article falls below the prescribed standard or its constituents are present in quantities which are in excess of prescribed limits of variability.
2. Essential Commodities Act, 1954
The main objectives of this act is to maintain supply of essential commodities to the public by proper regulation, prevention of black market and making it available to the public at reasonable price. A number of control orders have been formulated under this act
a. Fruit Products Order, 1955
This lays down statutory minimum standards in respect of the quality of various fruits and vegetable products and processing facilities. Packaging fruits and vegetables of a standard below the minimum prescribed standards is an offense punishable by law. This order is operated by the food and nutrition board of the Ministry of food processing industries.
b. Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992
The milk and milk products order is to set sanitation and hygiene standards for dairy plants and establish an advisory board to advise the government on production, sale, purchase and distribution of milk and milk products.
c. Meat Products Order, 1973
This makes it illegal to transport meat unless it has been prepared and processed according to the provisions of the inspection. The order also lays down rules and conditions for procedure to be adopted for the selection of disease free animals, slaughter house practices for further treatment of the meat so as to maintain the meat in a wholesome manner devoid of pathogens.
The following agencies have also laid down quality standards for foods.
i. Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)
Standards are laid for vegetables and fruit products, spices and condiments and animal products and processed foods. Once these standards are accepted, manufacturers whose products conform to these standards are allowed to use BIS label on each unit of their product.
ii. The Agmark Standard
The word AGMARK is derived from Agricultural Marketing. The AGMARK standard was set up by the Directorate of Marketing and Inspection of the Government of India by introducing an Agricultural product Act in 1937.
The quality of a product is determined with reference to the size, variety, weight, colour, moisture, fat content and other factors are taken into account. The act defines quality of cereals, spices, oil seeds, oil, butter, ghee, legumes and eggs and provides for the categorization of commodities into various grades depending on the degree of purity in each case. Grading of commodities like tobacco, spices, basmati rice, essential oils, etc. which are meant for export is compulsory under AGMARK. AGMARK ensures the quality of the product to the importers. In India consumer awareness about the various aspects of PFA is lacking. If consumer cooperation is not forthcoming, controlling adulteration is not an easy task.