ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Not a Sudden Breakdown SOME 10 years ago more than 1,000 people fell seriously ill in the Calcutta suburb of Behala after eating food prepared in cooking oil bought from a ration shop. Over 250 of the victims of that tragedy are today permanently disabled. At that time much was said about monitoring the manufacture of cooking oils, tightening up the working of the inspection mechanisms in the food safety departments, revising price structures to make them more rational, ensuring adequate supplies and so on. This week's unfolding tragedy in Delhi, where over a hundred people have been taken seriously ill after consuming mustard oil adulterated with argemone (or 'dattura'), has brought into focus once again these same agencies and the same desultory attitude to food protection. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that food adulteration and contamination, on the scale they are apparently prevalent, is a symptom of a society and an economy in distress. It is not as if there has been a sudden breakdown of the system there has never been an adequate and sound system for ensuring that food products sold and bought in the markets are safe.

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