The Nacharam based state food laboratory (SFL) in Hyderabad has come out with some alarming results. 625 food samples collected from the two Telugu states of AP and Telangana have been found to be unsafe, misbranded or sub-standard from January to August this year.
In response to an RTI (a copy of which is with TheNewsMinute), filed by activist Bakka Judson, 3,641 samples were tested and 254 products were found to be unsafe, 226 were misbranded and 145 sub-standard.
"It is shocking to see the results. Roughly 17 samples in every 100 tested were deemed under those categories and we do not even have the complete information yet," Judson tells The News Minute.
According to Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, 'unsafe food' is "an article of food whose nature, substance or quality is so affected as to render it injurious to health.” This could involve "poisonous or deleterious substances, decomposed items, unhygienic processing and the substitution of any inferior or cheaper substance whether wholly or in part.”
'Misbranded' means an article of food that is offered or promoted for sale with false, misleading or deceptive claims either on the label or through advertisement.
'Sub-standard' food on the other hand may not imply that the food is unsafe, but that it does not meet the specified standards set by the regulatory authorities.
What else does the RTI say?
From June to December last year, the most startling results came from brands and companies selling mineral and packaged drinking water, with 11 out of 33 samples deemed 'unsafe' while one sample was deemed 'misbranded.'
While there were zero cases of dairy products like butter and ghee being unsafe or misbranded, 38 samples of the total 103 samples tested were found to be sub-standard.
However, things have only got worse between January and August this year, with 20 out of 40 samples of mineral and packaged drinking water failing the test while 112 of the 219 samples of dairy products were also not up to the mark.
Another worrying figure was that of 'pan masala products,' where 175 out of the 236 tested samples were misbranded while seven were deemed unsafe.
Who are these defaulters?
"While we have got the results of the lab tests, we are yet to get the names of these defaulters. They have asked us to file another RTI addressed to Delhi and we will soon get a response to that," Judson adds.
Neither the food safety department nor the laboratory is ready to reveal the names of the products which were deemed unfit for consumption.
"Our job is to test the samples and pass on the results to the food safety department.The Food Safety Act is very clear on this," the chief public analyst of the lab told Times of India, while a food safety officer claimed that he could not reveal the names without clearance from higher authorities.
"Until the names are revealed, the products continue to stay on the shelves of stores and people are still buying and using the product," Judson adds.
The RTI activist hopes to get his hands on the brand names soon and then take further action.