Expired salt on PDS wounds

Additives like iron rendered useless: doctor

An expired salt packet in Ranchi on Thursday. Picture by Manob Chowdhary

Ranchi: Expired salt was sold at public distribution system (PDS) outlets here on Thursday, forcing citizens to take the state government's tall claims of greater PDS accountability in the wake of anomalies cropping up for the whole of 2017 with a grain of salt.

In the capital district, there are over 100 PDS shops and 4.16 lakh beneficiaries.

The matter came to light when beneficiaries at five PDS shops in Jagannathpur area, Sector I, discovered stocks of Jharkhand Namak - refined, iron-fortified iodised salt - with an expiry date of January 1, 2018. Packaged on January 1, 2017, the salt with added iron and iodine to tackle preventable anaemia and intellectual impairment, is best consumed within a year, the label said.

Ranchi's special officer (rationing) Sashi Bhushan Mehra admitted to this newspaper that the district had not received fresh salt stocks. "It is a serious issue. I will look into the matter immediately," he said.

Asked if consuming salt after expiry date was harmful, a state food testing lab official said sodium chloride might not have an impact, but additives such as fortified iron would lose nutrient value. "Unless I test salt samples, I can't comment further," he added.

Dr Shekhar Kajol, government physician posted in Chowka, was more direct. "Salt does not have an expiry date. But, here the issue is not about how expired salt will harm; it's about how added nutrients will cease to help."

Whistle-blower Bhola, a Jagannathpur casual labourer and school dropout, who went to collect his monthly ration of 1kg salt at Re 1 on Thursday and sent a picture of the expired packet to this correspondent on WhatsApp, said he was told at the shop that if he was not interested, he could wait for new stock.

"Who do I complain to?" asked the youth, who being town-bred, is more aware of his rights than the average PDS red card holder in the state.

PDS dealer Khagendra Sharma was defensive. "Dealers like us are not allowed to go to the Kadru godown. Ranchi district special officer for rationing allocates PDS stocks to dealers. These stocks came months ago. What can I do? We requisitioned for fresh stocks before the expiry date. We are small fry. Why blame us? I am not forcing anyone to take expired packets," he said.


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