THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) unearthed massive irregularities during its raids in the offices of the state food safety commissioner and assistant food safety commissioners on Monday.
The vigilance sleuths raided the food safety commissioner’s office in Thiruvananthapuram and the offices of the assistant food safety commissioners in all the districts. They also mounted searches at the food safety laboratories in Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Kannur districts. During the exercise named ‘Operation Health-Wealth’, it was found that some officers were found helping food manufacturers in the sale of food items that were found to be ‘unsafe, substandard or misbranded’.
The officers colluded with the manufacturers by taking bribes and delaying initiating prosecution against them. According to rules, prosecution should be initiated within a year the samples were tested as ‘unsafe’. However, the corrupt officers flouted the rule by delaying seeking sanction from the Food Safety Commissioner for prosecution. Such incidents were detected at Palluruthy in Ernakulam (11 cases), Pathanamthitta (10), Karunagappally (2), Chadayamangalam (2), Beypore (17), Palakkad (38), Kottayam (8), Alappuzha (7), and Malappuram (6). Also, it was found that several officers did not take action against brands whose products were found ‘sub-standard’ and ‘misbranded’.
Though the manufacturers ought to be fined and their products removed off the shelves as per the rule, no such efforts were taken in many offices.
The raids revealed that fines were not levied from 128 brands whose samples had failed lab tests in Pathanamthitta district. In Kottayam, action was not taken against 46 such brands, while in Kaduthuruthy office action was not taken against 111 such brands. The Vigilance sleuths also reported that there were undue delays in issuing lab reports from the Food Safety labs.
Rules say the result should be given within 14 days of testing the samples. However, in Kasaragod district, reports have been pending for the last three months. Similar incidents were reported from Kollam, Karunagapally, Aranmula and Vadavathoor in Kottayam. Despite the food safety commissioner’s directive, it was found that the sample-collections were not videographed.
Also, the licensed manufacturers, importers and distributors ought to file the details of the volume of their sales before March 31. Failure in doing this could attract a daily fine of Rs 100. However, the majority of the licensees were found not to be doing this and they buy help from the corrupt officers. Vigilance Director ADGP Manoj Abraham said the report on the raids will be submitted before the government for further action.