Valley’s Sole Food Lab Defunct; Court Seeks Reports, Govt. Clueless

SRINAGAR: Despite alarming rise in the cases of food adulteration, Kashmir valley’s sole food testing laboratory at Dalgate Srinagar remains virtually in-operational as it lacks infrastructure and is short of staff.
The laboratory which caters to 7 million souls has one food analyst and a technician. These two members have to conduct the tests of various food materials collected from the markets. 
“Hardly any testing is done in the laboratory,” an official of the department, requesting anonymity said. “A food sample is sent to the referral laboratory for analysis once in a blue moon. The laboratory is defunct.”
 “We have taken a few samples from the market and we are in the process of checking them for results,” Food Analyst, Sumeet Singh, said.
The officer, however, did not remember the number of samples or the kind of samples lifted from the market.
Earlier talking to Kashmir Observer, Irfana Ahmad, Commissioner Food and Drug Control Department Kashmir had expressed her inability to do anything on this count, saying: “I don’t know what happens to the samples we collect from the market.
The same story was repeated by Assistant Commissioner, Food Safety, Hilal Ahmad Mir,  who said that he had no idea how many samples were collected and sent to the laboratory for analysis in the past year.
A staffer at the lab told Kashmir Observer on April 26 that, the lab is not conducting any tests for long now. “They don’t do it. Once in a month they forward one odd sample of milk or biscuit to the central laboratory,”he revealed. On Tuesday, after the lapse of 21 days, insiders at the lab said, nothing has changed at the lab and authorities remain unmoved.
When the issue was brought in to the notice of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, he said he’d summon the concerned officials to his office in one of these days and seek an explanation. “We don’t know what poison we may be feeding to our children and it’s a pity Kashmir hasn’t any efficient laboratory to monitor the quality of eatables we consume on daily basis,” Dr Samoon said.
“You must talk to the Health Minister in this regard,” he advised.
Attempts to get hold of the Health Minister, however, didn’t materialize.
The Honourable High Court after taking a suo moto cognizance of various media reports regarding the adulteration of food, had asked the state to answer why there wasn’t a proper food testing laboratory under Jammu and Kashmir Food Safety and Standards Act in the state. 
A division bench comprising of Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Justice Ali Muhammad Magray while passing the judgement had said,: “There is no food testing laboratory worth the name under Jammu and Kashmir Food Safety and Standards Act in the state. It appears that people of the state are made to consume adulterated food.”
“All those responsible to check this adulteration probably have forgotten to perform their statutory duty,” the bench observed while hearing a Public Interest Litigation against food adulteration. “The statement made at bar by the learned counsel for the respondents and even by Commissioner Food Safety is enough to shake conscience of every sensitive soul, in so much as, there is no paraphernalia available in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the mandate contained in provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006," the bench observed.
While asking for substantial reports from the authorities regarding the food adulteration, the court has marked that the previous report filed by the commissioner of Food and Drug Control Department is not satisfactory. The court has asked for fresh reports from the concerned authorities.
As the fears of food adulteration continue to haunt the common people, the commissioner, holding an additional charge of Food and Drug Control Department, is yet to be revamped as promised four years ago by the NC-government


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