JK has no laboratory to test Maggi for Lead, MSG

JK has no laboratory to test Maggi for Lead, MSG

State is sleeping over the controversy surrounding the popular brand and no steps have been taken to prohibit its consumption and distribution.

Amid the public concerns about the safety of the popular Nestle snack, Maggi, the Food and Drug Control laboratory in the state is not equipped to test for Lead and Mono-Sodium Glutamate (MSG).

State is sleeping over the controversy surrounding the popular brand and no steps have been taken to prohibit its consumption and distribution.

The authorities at J&K Food and Drug Control Organisation (JKFDCO) said that they have initiated action. Mandeep Bhandari, Commissioner Secretary Health and Medical Education, who also holds the charge of Commissioner Food Safety said, “Samples have been lifted and sent to labs, both local and the national.” He added that the report from the local lab would be available in two days. He said that government would soon issue prohibition orders for the brand.

The organisation said that prohibition orders were delayed because of ‘public holiday’ on Wednesday. Stakeholders have expressed shock over the callousness of the department over the issue regarding food safety.

A shopper in Srinagar said, “How can the government not speak about something that is giving sleepless nights to authorities in other states. It is not that a special Maggi, free from all harmful substances, is sent to J&K.”

Officials at the department said that samples had been taken ‘some twenty days back’ and sent to the Srinagar lab. “The reports came to be alright. No adverse ingredient was reported by our lab,” Hilal Ahmed, Food Safety Officer, JKFDCO said.

He however accepted that the laboratory did not have facility to test for Lead and MSG. “That test is conducted in the Calcutta laboratory and we have sent the samples there,” the Food Safety Officer said.

The department was not clear about how many days it would take to receive the report from the Central Food Laboratory, Calcutta. Meanwhile, the department stated that it was mulling to send some samples of Maggi to ‘some other accredited laboratory’ which can give faster results.

The Drug Testing Laboratory Srinagar, according to sources, has flimsy infrastructure and callous approach towards food safety, according to sources. A source privy to the routine work conducted at the laboratory said, “It is quite astonishing that nine out of the ten food samples lifted and tested in this lab are given a clean chit. The remaining one sample is given a gentle tap by writing ‘mis-branded’ in the report.”

The Controller Food and Drugs, Nazir Ahmed was not available for comments despite repeated attempts.

Meanwhile, the Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK) has warned people of consuming contaminated food items. A public information release by the association said, “Lead can cause serious health problems and children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning which can cause permanent learning and behavior disorders.” It also warned of synthetic MSG, which according to the doctors, can cause ‘burning sensation of mouth, muscle tightness, fatigue, headache, flushing and tingling or numbness.’

Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, the organisation known for its war against cola companies has also called for ‘more tests’ of the snack. Bhushan said, “It is an issue of public health and public good – hence, there is no room for any compromise on this issue. It’s great that for the first time, processed food is being tested for contaminants like heavy metals by our food safety authorities.”

Other members of civil society have also expressed their concern over government apathy towards the issue. A delegation of J&K Civil Society said, “The Mufti Government should have learn some lessons from other state governments where a prompt action is taken against this multinational company for playing with the lives of billions of people.” It has demanded that State Government be conscious about the health of its citizens and immediately ban the sale of Maggi in the state.