Days after units producing synthetic milk were busted in Bhind and Morena districts of Madhya Pradesh, the state government has decided to legislate against food adulteration by treating it as a cognizable offence with a punishment of life imprisonment.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Tulsiram Silawat said the Congress government will follow the Supreme Court directives and amend IPC Section 272 (adulteration of food or drink intended for sale) to introduce life imprisonment as punishment against those who indulge in adulteration.
In a joint operation on July 19, a team of Food and Drug Administration officials from Morena and Bhind districts and a Special Task Force (STF) of state police busted factories manufacturing synthetic milk by adding chemicals and also the centres from where chemicals and raw material were being supplied. Scores of people have been arrested since then and sodium thiosulfate, caustic soda, chloroform, Palmolein oil, hydrogen peroxide, maltodextrin and shampoo among other products have been seized from them.
After directions from Chief Minister Kamal Nath, chief secretary S R Mohanty in a video conference asked district collectors to crack down on adulterators and continue the campaign. The government has also announced that it will begin a crackdown against those who use chemicals for early ripening of vegetables.
From July 20 to July 28, the food safety officials collected 952 samples of milk, milk products and other eatables from across the state and sent them for testing. Admitting that MP has only one food testing laboratory, Silawat said the government is considering setting up laboratories in Jabalpur, Gwalior and Indore.
The minister accused the BJP, which ruled the state for 15 years between 2003 and 2018, of doing little to check food adulteration. He said the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government had filed an affidavit in the apex court promising to provide life term for adulteration but did not keep its word. He said between April 2016 and December 2018, the BJP government did not analyze 13,000 food samples because the Bhopal-based laboratory was equipped to only handle 6,000 samples a year. He accused the previous government of surrendering before adulterators and letting them proliferate and put peoples’ lives at stake.