In order to bring vast changes in the quality of food being made available for various welfare initiatives, the Gujarat State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited (GSCSCL), which procures food materials for the state government, has done away with the current food testing mechanism and tied up with Directorate of Forensic Science Services (DFS) to set up its own Food Research Laboratory in Gandhinagar.
The GSCSCL, which supplies cereals, oil, iodised salt, pulses and other food items to Anganwadis and government schools under schemes like the Integrated Child Development Services and Mid Day Meal (MDM), has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the DFS. The entire cost to set up the laboratory, including the salaries of the staff, will be borne by the GSCSCL.
The Managing Director of GSCSCL, Manish Bhardwaj, said, “We have started our own set up in collaboration with the DFS. We will bear the expenses, but we will not interfere with the quality testing. DFS has its own credibility and integrity. We had done a trial with them and it worked out.”
So far, the GSCSCL had been hiring private laboratories to do sampling and testing of the food items to be procured. However, GSCSC authorities realised that the testing by the private laboratories was not being done properly as food items of inferior quality were being procured. “We randomly checked some samples like pulses that were okayed by the private labs, and found them to be of inferior quality,” said Bhardwaj. He indicated that many complaints of insects being found in food at Anganwadis or in MDM were due to such inferior quality food items. “So, we decided to do away with the current practice of hiring private laboratories,” said Bhardwaj.
A GSCSCL official suggested one of the reasons for private laboratories sanctioning such inferior quality food items could be “kickbacks” and “palm-greasing”. The GSCSCL was paying around Rs 60 lakh per year to six private labs, chosen through tender process, for sampling and testing of food items. This month, it signed the MoU with the DFS to set up a Food Research Laboratory in Gandhinagar.
Bhardwaj said, “We are sure that with this, the quality of food at Anganwadis and MDM will improve a lot.”
DFS director J M Vyas said, “This will be for the first time that the DFS will be indulging in such an exercise. DFS’s role has always been in testing in various criminal cases. But here, its expertise will be utilised for a different purpose.”