Feeding Poison: Bread, Spice Manufacturers Under Scanner

Srinagar:  We all love a piece of freshly baked bread or food added with a variety of spices which come in attractive packings. But be wary of their quality standards as they may be causing liver damage, stomach disorders and even cancer.
The study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) monitoring laboratory reported that the potassium bromate and potassium iodate which the bread manufacturers use to treat the flour are highly hazardous to health. It was reported that potassium bromate was 2b carcinogenic and potassium iodate could trigger thyroid disorders. The CSE in its report found 84 percent of the samples that they tested positive for potassium bromate and iodate even though both these chemicals were banned in 1999 by the International Agency for Research on cancer (IARC).
As per the official data, 4,500 people were diagnosed with cancer in Kashmir in 2016. Medical experts warn that the consumption of adulterated food may be the chief cause for the alarming increase in the number of cancer patients in our valley.
These shocking revelations have not only been made about our bread but also about our spices. As per the research conducted by Professor Moazzam Ali Khan, the spices which are sold openly as well the packaged ones contain high levels of lead followed by cadmium and arsenic. Most of the spices tested contained high levels of cadmium, mercury, arsenic, lead, nickel and chromium. Medical experts say that continuous consumption of these heavy metals can lead to chronic disorders, such as illness of human foetus, liver and kidneys dysfunction and mental retardation, particularly in children.
Despite these clearly worrying reports, our authorities continue to put the public health in jeopardy as there is no testing of food samples being conducted in the state of Jammu since the lone food lab of Kashmir lies defunct.
Professor Naseem Shah, Dean of Social Sciences, University of Kashmir said, “I don’t have any information regarding any research or testing being carried on food items. I don’t think any research or testing is being carried out even though it should be done given the rise in food adulteration.”
Food Analyst Srinagar, Mr. Sumeet Kumar immediately disconnected the phone on learning the call was from Kashmir Observer. The phone was switched off when we tried calling again. One can’t help but wonder why the people entrusted with the safety of the public health refuse to answer queries.
The lone food testing laboratory which caters to the needs of the entire population of Kashmir, has one food analyst and a technician.
The two members have the humongous task of conducting tests on various food samples 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.
A staff member had told Kashmir Observer on April 26 that the lab was not conducting any tests. “They don’t do it. They may forward a sample or two to the central laboratory once a month but for most part of the month, the lab remains closed”, he had revealed. On Tuesday, 21 days since KO published the report, insiders say that nothing has changed and authorities remain unmoved.
When the issue was brought to the notice of the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, he said “We don’t know what poison we may be feeding our children. It is a pity Kashmir doesn’t have any efficient laboratory to monitor the quality of eatables we consume on a daily basis.” Dr Samoon also said that he would summon the concerned officers and demand an explanation very soon.

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