HONEY, ITS TIME TO WAKE UP!

about 10 months ago
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Honey has never been sweeter. Or should we say bitter?

Almost the entire country has been slurping up honey in a pursuit to boost immunity, along with many herbs, thinking we are doing a good job in keeping the virus at bay. We have been giving honey to children every time they had even a slight cough or hiccup. And now we come to know that we have actually been causing them more harm than good; they and us, we all might have been much better off without all the honey we gulped down.

It’s quite unnerving – to know that the honey, supposedly given the go-ahead by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is adulterated. 10 of 13 honey brands, even those we “think” are conscientious companies - Patanjali, Dabur, Baidyanath, Zandu, etc have failed the sugar adulteration tests that are mandatory for honey exported out of the country. This expose was done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in Germany.

Obviously, the Govt is miffed and not quite ready to accept the fact that adulteration remains rampant and our so-called watchdogs, are always caught napping by the foreign authorities. We needed a US FDA to get our pharma industry to behave. We cried foul and we were certain that it’s all a conspiracy – the US pharma lobby wanted to protect itself. And now once again we are smelling a rat. Conspiration theories are always interesting and thought provoking but without real proof, by merely putting one and one together, its just that - a theory.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSI) was set up in 2008 and it deals mainly with adulteration in milk, oil, meat, fruit. It lays down rules and regulations for setting up such manufacturing units and labs, also advising on food safety and nutrition. With such an important role to play, we rarely hear of FSSI; in fact we are more familiar with US FDA than our very own FSSI.

Plagued with the general lackadaisical attitude which pans almost all Govt agencies, this one faces acute manpower shortage, outdated infrastructure and testing labs. Posts of food inspectors are lying vacant for over three-four years.  So when the watchdog itself is not doing its job, why should it be a surprise to see robbers making merry?

When the Maggi ban happened in 2015, the FSSAI employees themselves had said that getting bogus products cleared and quality ones being failed was an established norm. More shocking was another revelation – the FSSAI can get your competitors product disapproved for a charge of a mere Rs.1 lakh.

Really, under all these circumstances, one cannot help be scared about every single morsel of food that we put in our mouth. When corruption gets so deep rooted that it threatens the life of the population, what is the guarantee for anything?

We all have this deep-rooted ‘jugaadu’ mentality and we never seem to comprehend that processes and standard do matter. The ISO series have more than proven that.  Records, documents, and final products have to be made transparent or else how will we ever know whether the product has gone through any rigorous checks for quality? The IT industry adheres to global standard processes and products. So why can’t the FSSAI make itself truly global?

The CSE expose is good as it will make (hopefully) the FSSAI sit up and take notice and read the writing on the wall – it needs to change! It also comes as a wakeup call to Indian companies to drop the sab kuch chalta hai attitude.

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