Food safety on wheels
Mobile labs to cover entire population in the state, test about 80 parameters of quality to prevent adulteration and spread awareness on safety and hygiene
KOCHI: The Commissionerate of Food Safety in coordination with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will launch more mobile food testing laboratories in the state. Currently, only eight out of the 14 districts have the services of the mobile food testing laboratories. Officials say, with the inauguration of the six new laboratories, Kerala will become the only state in the country to have mobile testing facilities covering the entire population.
The mobile food testing laboratory named as ‘Food Safety on Wheels’ can test about 80 parameters of quality across food categories and each vehicle cost around Rs 50 lakh. The FSSAI will be providing recurring grant towards petrol and other routine maintenance expenses of the vehicles.
Apart from conducting simple tests for common adulteration in milk, water, edible oil and other food items of daily consumption, the mobile units would also be used for awareness building on food safety, hygiene, and promoting healthy eating habits among citizens.
Commissioner of Food Safety V R Vinod told TNIE that Food Safety on Wheels is an attempt by FSSAI to project the agenda of food safety and hygiene for everyone and everywhere. “Food Safety on Wheels will have multiple responsibilities and will be used as a tool to disseminate awareness to the public and conduct training programmes for food business operators,” said Vinod.
He said rural and remote areas of the state would be given more importance. “We will be scheduling the operations of the mobile labs for every month. We will inform the respective food safety officers and residential associations so that the public can make use of the facility,” he added.
The mobile labs will reach out to unorganised sector involved in street food vending, catering and manufacturing units.
The mobile laboratories will have a display screen to show awareness messages on Food Safety Act. “The vehicles will be parked at different locations everyday so that everybody will benefit from the facility. Training sessions for FBOs and food handlers will also be given through the laboratories,” said Vinod.
The food safety authorities are planning to improve random collection of samples to screen the presence of adulterants. The samples collected will be transported using mobile laboratories. Currently, the food safety department has initiated legal action against 1,200 violators. “In addition to random samples, we collect statutory samples based on complaints. We initiate legal action against violators when we detect the presence of pesticides, high levels of colour, etc, in food items,” said Vinod.
The mobile laboratories will have equipment including digital balance, digital refractometer, hot plate, hot air oven, rapid milk screening apparatus, mixer grinder, etc.
Dept to conduct study
With adulteration becoming more rampant in fish, milk and other food items, the Commissionerate of Food Safety has decided to conduct more studies on preservatives with the help of departments concerned to equip the public laboratories.
“Our testing kits and laboratories are able to detect only commonly used adulterants like formaldehyde which is widely used for preserving fish. We need to find out if other harmful preservatives or chemicals are being used for the purpose. Hence, we have tied up with Cusat to conduct a study and find out the presence of other chemicals. We will be equipping our laboratories accordingly,” said Vinod.
He said similar studies would be carried out with the help of the dairy department to screen the presence of other adulterants.
- Surveillance and creating awareness regarding food safety in remote areas, large public congregations, schools and consumer organisations
- Transporting samples collected from remote areas to the nearest food testing laboratory
- Cold chain logistics for regulatory/surveillance sample
- Function as an off-site wing of labs
- Education of consumers in various aspects of food safety laws and common hygiene practices
- As a module for information, education and communication materials in Malayalam
- Training street food vendors
- Providing information and support for licensing and registration
- Training and awareness programme for plantation workers about food safety
- On-the-spot testing for qualitative adulteration of common food items like ghee, milk, sweets, edible oils, spices, water and other beverages, non-permitted food colours in various foods like cereals, pulses, prepared food, etc
- Sterilised milk
- Evaporated milk
- Ice cream
- Milk powder
- Infant food
- Malt food
- Edible oil
- Carbonated water
- Baking powder
- Spices, condiments
- Jaggery, honey
- Cane sugar
- Artificial sweetener
- Food colour
- Canned food
- Proprietary food
- Bread, cake
- Iodised salt
- Packaged drinking water