Public health being a primary concern, steps taken by the state government to improve food safety system are more than welcome. People in the state have often expressed complaints about unsafe and contaminated food being sold and served with the providers too much engrossed in profiteering. The infamous case of spurious drugs wherein some unscrupulous businessmen and enterprises were found to bruise both public faith and health, calls forth for a better mechanism to ensure both quality food and drug administration in the state.
The state drug policy and food standards need further strengthening and public endorsement. In fact joint programmes by the municipal corporation, Food and Civil Supplies Department (earlier called CAPD) and state health department can prove advantageous than individual efforts to create awareness and fight counterfeits, misbranded food items, spurious and adulterated food contents, unhygienic conditions of food joints and several issues related to food safety.
The health concern is not just about well-being today. It is also linked with the financial conditions of the individual and the family. There are certain disorders and diseases that can turn around the rags to riches story, make individuals and families destitute since the cost of medical treatments, procedures and medicines are exorbitant. Even some common health issues can drain the savings. Therefore, good health is also required to improve the financial condition, whether it is an individual or a family that gets affected.
Since medical and treatment charges have been increasing and outbreak of certain diseases and infections have been rampant, it ought to be a priority of the government to ensure an improved food safety and public health system in the state. That is a pre requisite for a prospering society and prospering state. When this pre requisite is not fulfilled, at least post effects must be minimized. That can only happen is the state has the needed health infrastructure. As of now, the state’s contribution in health care is primarily in the form of government run hospitals. The condition of government hospitals is not very encouraging, and we all hope and pray not to get ill and be admitted in any of these hospitals.
A minister said at the conclusion of one Food Safety Week that “despite the food safety Act many manufacturers and vendors in Kashmir Valley are not complying with the directives and sell misbranded food”. Such an admission warranted caution to be observed both by the people and the state government.
The problems regarding unsafe food are not restricted to small food joints and tea stalls that exist and serve in almost every nook and corner of the valley. Contaminated bottled water, uncovered food, stale stocks of food items and packed food, contaminated milk and adulterated spices go unnoticed with the health of consumers paying the real price. Unfortunately, the worst sufferers are children who are high risk to food borne diseases. Infections and illnesses are more common in children due to unsafe food as their immune system is not well equipped. Special programmes and awareness campaigns to educated children and parents are much needed. Vendors and hoteliers not conforming to the standards must be brought to book
Moreover, the public too has a significant task to accomplish, to create awareness among others about the importance of food safety and legislations meant for the same purpose.
So far as the progress report of state’s health sector is concerned, it has not shown any improvement despite heavy spending and support of government over the years. To make things worse, contaminated and adulterated foods have been entering the food chain with authorities least bothered about the wellness of the people.
The Food and Control Organisation has repeatedly disappointed the people with the organisation turned into a rudderless institution. The task of examining different food articles and proper implementation of Food Safety and Standards Act has been marred with controversies arising from the fact that the responsibility has been unremittingly shifted by different bodies and municipal committees.
There is a lot of confusion among masses over the main authority responsible for enacting the law in the state and shouldering the responsibilities. While the municipalities are known for sporadic response regarding health and hygiene check in the state, there does not seem to be any mechanism in place to check the toxic substances that get mixed with the food articles sold almost everywhere in the state. While unscrupulous vendors are making easy bucks by selling adulterated and contaminated food, it is the health of the people that is degrading with the passing of days.
The self-defeating plan of government begins and ends with a food safety week where authorities go on inspecting kitchens and food manufacturing units in few selected places. Whosoever is caught in that once-in-a-year exercise is made to pay a penalty and the matter is forgotten.
It is no wonder that there is such a huge rush of patients in different hospitals who complain about infections and mild and severe food poisoning cases. Some very unhealthy practices are completely ignored by the authorities upon.
Even doctors’ associations, medical fraternity and civil society could have rendered a great service by disseminating essential information on food contamination. While people have been hearing about lack of infrastructure and testing labs in the state, the government does not seem to budge an inch. If the state of affairs continues this way, number of people suffering from illnesses due to adulterated food is going to be huge. It is time that government takes to task different agencies which should have been on toes to see food safety act is properly implemented in the state.