The food safety officials across the state said slow and crippled functioning of regional analytical labs in Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram and Eranakulam, was a cause for concern as they delayed the test results of the samples submitted at the laboratories.
The government analysts of the laboratory have admitted that labs lacked trained staff and proper equipment required for its smooth functioning, which was delaying the test results.
Adding to the miseries, a majority of the equipment currently available in the labs are partly broken down.
Further, the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Health Care Providers (NABH) has not accredited any of the four labs in Kerala, which include the regional analytical labs in Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram, Eranakulam and Pathanamthitta.
The labs lack apparatuses such as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LCMS), gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) and UV spectrophotometer, which are necessary for the diagnosis of pesticides, insecticides and for quantitative analysis of each parameter.
It is learnt that the safety officials were unable to initiate action against the traders who supply adulterated or contaminated food, mainly because of the poor test results from the labs that make it difficult for them to assess the level of organic or inorganic content present in the sample.
“When we give a food sample, they say that a particular organic or inorganic matter is present in the sample. They will refuse to comment on any further questions on it. Some contents are permissible to a certain level, but beyond which would be hazardous. For want of proper test result, we cannot exactly gauge the quantity of the content,” said food safety officials.
The officials said when they asked the lab authorities why they failed to come up with a detailed report of each food sample, they blamed it on poor facility and lack of trained staff in the testing rooms.
“Last time, we gave some mangoes to assess the level of insecticides and pesticides in them. But, I haven’t received the results even after one month of submitting the samples, the officials said.
“On an enquiry, they said, ‘A particular equipment meant to test the mangoes is not available with us’, and asked me to avail of the service of some private laboratory,” added the the officials.
At the Kozhikode Regional Laboratory a micro biologist post has been lying vacant for more than a year which makes the assessment of bacterial contamination in food items nearly impossible.
S T Thankachan, a government analyst in the laboratory, admitted that 50 per cent of the total staff are not trained.
Besides, fund was not available to buy equipment to conduct tests.