Food that Kills.

How long will these adulterators be allowed to play with human lives?

A recent finding of health experts regarding widespread cases of cancer in Kashmir is alarming. Gastrointestinal malignancies are more common than other forms of cancer. Most of the health experts attribute this steep rise in gastrointestinal cancer to our food habits, particularly to adulterated foods. Traditional Kashmiri salted tea and excess use of spiced foods can be reasons for trouble in our digestive track, but adulterated foods are most harmful cause for concern. Adulterated foods and spices affect not only the digestive track, but upset almost all systems and organs of our body.

Adulteration is a crime against mankind and anyone involved in this inhuman crime is liable to severe punishment. Earlier adulteration was considered the most shameful act in our society. From religious point of view adulteration is a grave sin and no religion permits it at any cost.   However, over the period of time with degradation in our societal order, fast creeping corruption and failure of system of checks and balances, adulteration took a menacing shape. Regretfully, earlier only a handful of petty despicable people within the society would resort to adulteration, but now even most respectable and so-called elite make huge profits out of adulteration. They manage their escape by misinterpreting provisions within the law and corrupting monitoring and prosecuting agencies with ease.

In recent past two prominent foods processing companies in Kashmir valley were found indulging in manufacturing and selling adulterated milk products and spices. Much was said, both by the concerned food companies and the adulteration monitoring agencies. Allegations and counter allegations made rounds for several months and most of the Valley population watched this ‘Dirty linen washing’ helplessly till the whole issue got buried under twisting of rules or may be by excessive greasing of palms. And later nothing was heard of this mother of all adulteration scoops. A few months earlier a small food processing unit in Srinagar running without license was purportedly unearthed by the authorities and poor common-people were made to believe that most of the seized food material was adulterated with health hazardous colours and other processing materials. Every other week such cases are reported in the press, but nothing substantial seems to have come out of this shoddy exercise of food quality monitoring agencies. Most of the big food companies when accused of adulteration either resort to blame game or play the ‘holier than others’ trick and if even then they fail, they try the ‘victim’ storyline. Unfortunately, for few quick bucks and market competition adulterators play not only with the sentiments of people, but put their lives at great risk. They make people suffer painful diseases and disorders and in social circles claim to be God fearing souls of highest order. An adulterator is an adulterator! And there should be no mercy if his or her crime is proved beyond doubt.

This murky state of our food safety has made every Kashmiri, particularly in urban areas sick, both physically and mentally. On one side we face soft spoken, disguised adulterators out to poison us slowly that too against heavy price and on the other hand we are unable to do anything against complaisant food regulating authorities. Poor people are helplessly watching slow, but sure death of each other. Corruption in our food regulating and control mechanism is not new. In my childhood a substantial number of sheep slaughtered outside the slaughter houses illegally were stamped by the then Srinagar Municipal Committee inspectors against consideration, but then they would never ever compromise with the apparent health of slaughtered animal. These days neither we have any functional slaughter house nor do we find that stamping process anymore. Nowadays most of inspections, raids, seizures, referral samples and other procedures are an eyewash, stage managed to save or bailout the culprits from looming threat of prosecution. Unfortunately, instead of having access to superior food, we are in a deep dilemma with regard to quality and choice of our food.
Now is the time to rise up against veiled adulterators and convince authorities about black sheep within their food regulating and quality control system. Authorities too have to gear up its machinery against adulterators honestly and sincerely, weed out the moles within its quality control system, speed up the prosecution mechanism and punish the culprits with exemplary punishment. Otherwise, we all will die a slow but excruciating death out of adulteration.