Kerala’s bakery industry is gearing up for Christmas, with increased production and sales of cakes and other bakery items, despite fears of adulteration and concerns about the quality of raw material and ingredients used (some of which are banned). The state government has issued a caution notice urging bakery producers to take the necessary steps to ensure safe food during the festival.
“It has been observed that some of the raw material and ingredients, including colours, used to bake cakes across Kerala are either not permitted or not within the permissible limits. Bakers must maintain receipts and registers of all the raw material and ingredients used,” it said, informing that special squads had been formed in every district to conduct inspections.
The notice, signed by Kerala’s food safety commissioner, warned of strict action against those found violating the rules. However, bakers have denied the occurrence of adulteration in the state, and said that Christmas shopping had already commenced, adding that the sales of baked items, especially cakes, have gone up across Kerala. They were expected to be at their peak for the next two weeks.
Jagan Thomas, managing director, Thomson Bakers, said, “Christmas is the most crucial season for the bakery sector. The sales of cakes sales break records every year. Even this year’s demand is high. Shopping actually commences a week before Christmas, reaches its peak on December 23 and 24, and ends after New Year’s Day. It is not uncommon for the sector to earn more than a year’s profit in the festive month alone.”
“Kerala has over 10,000 production units, employing lakhs of people. The government’s about the use of non-permitted or inferior ingredients by the bakery sector is not true. It is growing across India because of the quality and variety of products it offers customers. At Christmas, the consumer demand for baked items is unpredictable, but we are usually able to meet it, because the shelf life of our products is low.”
P M Sankaran, state president, Bakers’ Association of Kerala (Bake), said, “It has been alleged that we use inferior ingredients in the bakery industry, but we deny that. Bake is on a mission to offer its customers colourless and healthy bakery products. The bakery industry is well-established in Kerala, and its offerings are widely accepted across the state.”
“But small-scale and unbranded bakery products need a push to ensure the development of those segments. Owing to quality concerns, many choose branded products over unbranded ones. This may adversely affect the small and medium-sized enterprises and their workers. The current market is promising, and in the future, growth can be expected in both the domestic and foreign markets,” he added.
There are millions of Indian consumers who are dependent on the Food Safety Regulations, so that they get safe and unadulterated food. However, the cases of adulteration are on the rise as can be seen from the numerous cases in the courts and also from the number of representations made by food business operators. In 2013-14 there were 72,000 samples analysed and out of these 13,571 were found to be adulterated as they failed the laboratory quality tests. Civil and criminal proceedings have been filed in over 10,325 cases.
The matter of food contamination was raised in the parliament and health Minister JP Nadda informed the Lok Sabha that the FSSAI rules and regulations will be reviewed. Legislation dealing with food adulteration will be made more stringent particularly for milk and to prevent large scale food adulteration in the country. The government is all set to increase manpower and infrastructure to handle this serious issue. Section 57 & 59 of FSS Act, 2006 define the provisions of penalties for possessing adulterant & unsafe food.
The penalties included
imprisonment of a minimum seven years and up to life plus a fine of Rs. 10 lakh as penalty for causing death
six years imprisonment and Rs 5 lakh for grievous harm caused by unsafe food intake
one year in jail and Rs. 3 lakh fine for non- grievous harm
a fine of upto Rs. 3 lakh for misbranding
The matter of food contamination was raised in the parliament. It was brought to the notice of the parliament that everything from water to milk and food products were contaminated. Concerns were also raised over the use of oxytocin injection that are said to increase the volume of milk in cows. Voices were also raised about the unregulated use of pesticides in poultry products and how this has become a serious health hazard. There was a demand for swift action to curb the menace.
Health Minister JP Nadda informed the Lok Sabha that a special task force had been constituted to study the rampant adulteration in all forms of food products especially milk. The Minister also said that the contaminated foods have increased the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCD). He also blamed the state governments for the poor implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act. He said the levels of punishment could be increased if necessary.
On the other hand Minister of Consumer Affairs, Ram Vilas Paswan said that data available with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs showed that almost four out of five food product samples tested last year under food safety laws, failed the quality test. Almost 87.3 per cent of the samples tested were found to be adulterated. He acknowledged that food safety infrastructure was missing in a majority of states. Also, none of the states had sent him details of persons prosecuted for adulteration despite asking. This makes it difficult to enforce the law as health is a state subject.
Food institute declares KFC’s Rizo Rice ‘safe
Fast-food giant KFC’s Rizo Rice served at its restaurant at Scindia House in Connaught Place has been cleared of presence of artificial colouring and preservatives.
The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore reports that the “cooked rice” sold by KFC “conform” to the general provisions of food safety and standards.
Earlier, the Delhi government’s food safety department had lifted samples of Rizo Rice on April 23, 2014 as part of its safety drive to check presence of harmful substances in food articles sold in the capital. Random samples were also taken from various restaurants and tested between January 2013 and October 2014.
The CFTRI however, found that the samples sent to it did not contain harmful preservatives such as sulphur dioxide and benzoic acid, or synthetic colouring
Goods worth ₹2,000 crore stuck at ports for not meeting new labelling norms
Restaurant managers in star hotels across the country are having a tough time serving continental dishes such as lamb rack, Norwegian Salmon and cooked caviar.
Reason: Imported sauces, cheese and other condiments are in short supply. Since January, many of crucial ingredients are stuck with the Customs Department at various ports.New labelling rules
The Department cannot clear these goods because under the new rules and regulations of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, these items violate labelling regulations.
A senior Customs Department official told BusinessLine that a large number of containers with goods worth about ₹2,000 crore are stuck. “Some attempts are being made to re-label the packages, but the process is slow. Some items might cross the ‘best use’ date,” the official said.Prices shoot up
Sanjeev Shekhar, General Manager of Hotel Marine Plaza in South Mumbai, said his hotel has been paying higher prices for imported ingredients since January. Hence, in April the rates of all dishes on the menu were increased by 15-20 per cent. The hotel has stocked certain ingredients but this is depleting fast. If supply does not improve then “the situation could get difficult,” he said.
The price of cranberry sauce has risen from ₹340 per 125 ml to ₹475; Parmesan Cheese from ₹480 per 200 gm to ₹650. The price of US made premium coffee Maxwell has increased by ₹480 per 200 gm to ₹700