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Health meltdown, courtesy roadside ice cream

Don’t rush to the nearest roadside ice candy cart for a pleasant respite from the scorching summer, as the outcome may be most unpleasant.

The daytime mercury, which does not look like it will budge below 40°C anytime soon, has brought to the fore allied health hazards such as stomach infections from affordable (read unbranded) ice candies, ice creams, kulfis and fruit syrups sold by vendors.

The district health department, which received a slew of complaints against the unhygienic roadside coolers, is mulling a random sampling drive in the city and implement the updated Food Safety and Standards Act 2012. The Jharkhand Cabinet passed the act in February 2012.

The timing seems right, as East Singhbhum district food inspector Krishna Prasad Singh and additional chief medical officer (ACMO) Swarn Singh will attend a three-day meet on this revised act in Namkum, Ranchi, from April 26 to 28.

State food controller T.P. Burnwal will preside over this meet that will see delegates from all 24 districts iron out their doubts on the provisions of the revised act.

“Yes, ACMOs and district food inspectors from 24 districts will attend the training slated for April 26-28 at the state reproductive and child health office in Namkum,” confirmed Burnwal.

He added that cases of stomach-related infections witnessed an abrupt rise in summer and monsoon.

“We will advise food inspectors and ACMOs to work in sync to implement the Act while sampling products. Complaints range from synthetic colours in ice candies and adulterated milk in ice creams and kulfis in Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad and Bokaro,” Burnwal said.

Synthetic additives that are not permissible pose serious problems, said K.N. Singh, associate professor in medicine, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (MGM) Medical College and Hospital.

“They damage cells. Some develop allergies due to such chemicals. Gastritis is widespread. On an average, two or three cases of gastritis due to consumption of roadside ice creams, kulfis and candies are reported at MGM everyday,” the doctor said.

Once the East Singhbhum food inspector and ACMO return, raids on roadside kiosks will start.

“We are getting complaints about persons suffering from stomach infections after consuming roadside fruit syrups, ice creams and ice candies and will take proper action after knowing the exact parameters of the revised Act,” said Swarn Singh.

The “exact parameters” include the protocol during raids and random sample collection as well as the quantity of the edibles to be sent for tests at the Mineral Area Development Authority (Mada) laboratory, Dhanbad.

The food testing lab at Namkum will get operational “soon”, said Burnwal, but added that so far they were solely dependent on Mada.

Vendors near schools and colleges of the city also have authorities worried. “I have asked students not to eat from roadside vendors, but they do try out the unbranded ice creams. I am planning to depute guards at gates to stop this practice,” said Jamshedpur Women’s College principal Shukla Mohanty.