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State’s only food lab on ventilator

Ranchi, Nov. 27: The country’s food watchdog may be acting tough on several household brands for false claims of health benefits, but Jharkhand’s lone quality monitor continues to remain infirm and gasps for air.

The drug and food testing laboratory in Namkum, which resumed work only in October after two years of sloth, is back to its old sluggish self, courtesy acute crunch of manpower and resources, not to mention a state’s glaring lack of will to run the indispensable facility.

According to sources, of the 78 food samples collected from across the state last month, only two have been tested.

State food controller T.P. Burnwal neither denied nor confirmed the tardy pace of work.

“They are milk samples and have been misbranded, which means they were not up to the mark in terms of quality as claimed by the manufacturer,” he said, quickly adding that rest of the tests were in the process.

In November, around 60 similar samples were brought for tests, half of them collected before Diwali. But, reports are pending because the only drug analyst, J.K. Singh, has had to travel frequently between Bihar and Jharkhand to attend to a family emergency.

Burnwal, however, put up a brave face and assured that all the remaining tests — 136 to be exact — would be completed soon. “The entire report on sampling and test results must be ready by December 6 because we hold a meeting on sixth of every month in this regard,” he said.

The food controller admitted that the Namkum laboratory was yet to ensure quality food for people of the state, but insisted that efforts were on in full swing to keep health hazards at bay.

“We are primarily focusing on milk, bread and allied products of major manufacturers doing business in Jharkhand. Cracking whip on small vendors does not help much because they cater to a very less number of people. Over the last few days, brands like Moreish (bread), Sudha Dairy, Shyam Dairy, Express confectioners and Arambagh confectioners among others have been put under scanner. Some of them had failed quality tests in the past,” Burnwal said.

But, they were not prosecuted for their offence.

“I agree that we have failed in this regard. Ever since the food safety act was implemented in the state this year, district officials are clueless on how to crack down on rogue manufacturers. We have scheduled an orientation programme on December 6 for them,” he added.


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