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Ban companies making hazardous food: RSS affiliate

New Delhi : After the controversy over Maggi noodles and subsequent ban on the two-minute snack, a key RSS affiliate has demanded that companies making hazardous food items be not just penalised but completely prohibited from doing business in the country.

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an RSS outfit, has also demanded that the government frame proper standards for “ready to eat” food and make provisions for rigorous imprisonment for violations.

“The Government should penalize the companies who indulge in the production and sale of such hazardous food items and also completely prohibit them from doing business in the country,” the Manch resolution adopted at its recent National Council meeting at Vijaywada said.

Stressing on the need to effectively check consumption of food items hazardous to health, the Manch has also urged people to boycott products of such companies and create awareness in society.

The Manch has alleged “mis-representation” of product contents by various companies and said if a product is genetically-modified it should be mentioned on the label itself.

“Despite continuous demand for the draft bill for making it mandatory to clearly mention ‘GM Food’ on the labels of food materials containing genetically modified products it has been pending since last one-and-a-half decades. It is noteworthy here that GM foods are banned in several European countries,” the resolution said.

Manch’s national co-convener Ashwani Mahajan told PTI, “We demand that strict safety norms and standards be fixed for all foreign companies in the business of food products and drinks. We clearly feel that foreign companies are disrespecting the country’s standards and laws and are indulging in unethical business practices.”

He also demanded a “thorough probe” into all food products sold in India by Chinese companies.

Mahajan accused Swiss multi-national Nestle, the makers of Maggi, of engaging in “inhumane” business practices and “playing with lives of people” after its instant noodles was found flouting food safety norms.

The RSS affiliate’s resolution said there are several examples of “mis-describing the products which makes a mockery of the prescribed standards”.

It cited the example of use of the term “frozen dessert” instead of ice-cream for substituting cream with hydrogenated vegetable oil, which normally people avoid to use in food, or using the term “beauty soap” in place of “toilet soap” to reduce the Total Fat Matter (TFM) from 75 pc (prescribed for toilet soap) to 65 pc to reduce costs.

Criticising the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for turning a “blind eye for a long time” to production and sale of food items with “poisonous substances”, the Manch said despite court orders on the issue, “a lot many shortcomings have been deliberately left” out in regulatory provisions framed to stop sale of unhealthy junk food with high transfat, sugar and salt levels in schools and colleges.

“The callous inaction of Competition Commission of India with regard to monopoly and acquisitions by only a handful of MNCs in the canned food industry is worrisome.

“The manner in which monopolistic companies are trying to mislead the consumers through heavy advertising of their products containing poisonous substances such as lead and Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) which cause extensive damage to liver, kidneys and brain; using celebrity endorsements to make irrational claims need decisive action,” the resolution said.

It said several studies done on ill-effects of junk food with high levels of transfat, sugar and salt indicate that they cause high blood pressure, cardiac problems, depression and kidney failure.

It said it is imperative to effectively control manufacture and sale of such food and also make it mandatory to put appropriate warning(s) on the label.

Such products, the Manch said, must be kept out of the reach of children. Besides, it stressed on testing and time- bound sampling of such food items at regular intervals on the basis of stringent standards.