In the aftermath of the Maggi noodles row, the Kerala government is cracking its whip on vendors of vegetables and fruits with dangerously high levels of pesticide residue, especially those brought from the neighbouring states.
Wholesale traders of vegetables and fruits in Kerala will have to now reveal the source of the produce they bring to the retail markets.
First of all, the vegetable/fruit traders will have to go in for registration, as per the Food Safety Act. This was decided at a meeting of senior officials of the Kerala Health and Civil Supplies Departments on Tuesday, convened by ministers VS Sivakumar and Anoop Jacob.
The traders have to register their vehicles used to bring in the provisions from markets in other states. Kerala depends on other states for vegetables, fruits, poultry and dairy products. Recently, a delegation from Kerala Food Safety Department, which visited the vegetable fields in Tamil Nadu, had found that pesticide residue in harvested produce was 5 to 10 times higher than the permissible levels, officials said.
Vehicles carrying vegetables and fruits will be allowed to pass the Kerala’s border check posts only after they reveal the source of the cargo. Officials who carry out inspections in vegetable markets in the state will add to their checklist the source of the goods, making it easier to blacklist a producing area if toxic content is proven.
The food safety department has also convened a meeting of wholesale traders in Kerala as part of sensitizing them about procuring pesticide-free provisions from Tamil Nadu. All inter-state fruit and vegetable traders would have to get licence by July 15.
The state Food Safety Department has started inspections in restaurants for the presence of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in food. The week-long check is meant to ensure that eateries in the state do not use MSG beyond the permissible limit. The authorities have to submit daily reports of the inspection to the government.
Meanwhile, a preliminary report of the state food safety department has ruled out the presence of MSG beyond permissible levels in Maggi noodles. Food safety commissioner T V Anupama confirmed that the preliminary report has ruled out the presence of excess MSG. “The test has found the presence of flavour enhancer E635, but that has been mentioned in the label. Earlier reports have denied the presence of lead above the permissible level,” she said.
However, considering the nation-wide action against Maggi, the commissioner has asked laboratories to conduct a second round of tests. The samples are being tested at the laboratory of Cashew Exports and Promotion Council and FSSI-approved and NABL-accredited Sterling lab in Kochi.
Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court has asked the state government to submit details of the actions taken on a plaint seeking a ban on Maggi noodles in the state and a recall of the Nestle product from the shops, within two weeks. A division bench of Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice AM Shaffique has passed the order on a plaint by a Kochi resident.