Every food item we gleefully put on our plate with the thought of eating healthy has become a reason for increasing illnesses and health issues today. One out of every five food samples is unfit for consumption, according to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Adulteration and contamination with dangerous chemicals in fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats, dairy products, tea, spices and grains, has become a common practice of the food industry.
India tops the list of violators of food in the world. It has been observed that around one third of food frauds take place due to use of illegal and excessive insecticides and pesticides, contamination by pathogens, filth and chemical fertilizers. “They all say ‘healthy’ but tests have shown they are hardly that,” says Dr Suneeta Chandorkar, Department of Food and Nutrition, MS University, Vadodara, according to whom mislabeling of packaged products is a worrying issue!
The WHO report ‘How Safe Is Your Food’ entails a number of diseases caused by food contamination, including neurological disorders, gynaecological issues, immunological illnesses, as well as multi-organ failure. Food borne diseases have been a cause of death for over 4 lac infants, every year in India. While microbial infections can manifest immediately causing diarrhea and food poisoning, chemical contamination can affect the body in the form of slow poison. While no data have been issued over the cost of contaminated food, its effect on health has been at a large scale.
For example, tea, which is consumed as a beverage 2-3 times daily in India, is adulterated with iron fillings, exhausted tea leaves, coal tar dye, sand, and sawdust, and has become an increasing cause of liver disorders, lung and skin cancers. On the other hand, vegetables and fruits are often artificially coloured and injected with growth hormones. Even wheat flour, which is used daily to make chapatti, bread, and breakfast delicacies, contains more than 20 chemicals, apart from fungus, mud and insects, resulting in a number of health issues ranging from liver malfunction to kidney damage and diabetes. Contamination in wheat, barley, maize, and oats has been known to cause gastrointestinal bleeding as well as jaundice.
What’s the consumer doing?
The biggest offence and one which affects health of consumers the most, is mislabeling. A strong monitoring system, random lab tests and a strict policy to maintain transparency about the contents of packaged products can help. Besides, this is the right of the consumer! If the consumer is aware these kinds of frauds can be limited with effect on a large scale. Today, due to poor infrastructure of labs and untrained staff, the food manufacturers at their will set wrong standards and get a clean chit with wrong labeling. A demand for fair trade practices, better enforcement of food laws, support for inspection and monitoring, can change the face of the food industry, but it may take years for us to even start with.
Grow organic and buy organic!
If you compare organic produce with the produce grown conventionally, you would inarguably agree that the levels of chemicals are as much as 98% less in organic foods! Organic food is actually beneficial and holds the power to healthier human bodies. While the consumer is still looking at organic food as a way to rob their hard earned money, what they are failing to see is that the food they are eating is robbing their health which is far more valuable than anything. Today, organic brands such as ‘Organic Soul’ are coming up with ways to save the world from the dangerous effects of harmful chemicals and pesticides by simply ensuring that the organic produce you get remains truly “Organic”.