GINGER: To the utter dismay of the better three-quarters, she found even the ginger sold at the Panjim vegetable market to be rancid!
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
It is not only fish, vegetables, fruits, and even other common items of daily consumption like ginger, that are adulterated. An apple, which bore the tag of having been imported from Chile, was found to be rotten at the core when it was cut the next morning for my breakfast. Though I posted pictures of the full apple with the Chile label and the rotten result to the fruit commissioner, the DGP and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, there was no response. Who cares if Goans die?
A goodly apple rotten at the core”. On Monday morning as usual the better three-quarters cut an apple which claimed to have come from Chile into two parts. Apples are part of my regular breakfast. I do not know whether I should consider myself lucky or unlucky. Every day I get to travel around the world through the apple I consume for breakfast because I have eaten apples from New Zealand Australia and even China. Indeed, China is the largest exporter of apples to the United States. So my stomach has gone for a world tour even though I have not gone anywhere.
When the apple from Chile, a Latin American country more than 20,000 km away from Goa, was cut open, it was rotten in the middle. It was almost as though the proverbial serpent from the garden of Eden described in the Bible had somehow managed to infiltrate my breakfast apple.
This is not the first time this has happened. We have also found apples from New Zealand, Australia and China rotten when cut, although they look very glossy and attractive on the surface. Very often we have had to peel of wax before cutting the fruit.
Not only apples, but many other fruits imported from abroad, turn out to be rotten. Not surprising because they come from long distances. They cannot remain pure and fresh unless preservatives are used. In all probability considering the apples cost only `30 to `40 it is unlikely that they are brought by air. They probably comes by ship which can take 15 days or months to reach Goa.
The adulteration of food is not limited to fruits. Exotic vegetables like broccoli are unnecessarily imported from abroad. Not only fruits like apples, but even broccoli is grown organically in India. A recent visitor from Kulu Manali, Bulbul Singh, gave up a job in Hindustan Lever to look after an apple orchard in Uttarkhand. Apples in Kashmir have unmatched taste. But these apples from Kulu Manali, Kashmir, and other parts of the country are not available to Indians and Goans. They are all exported to foreign countries where they fetch a better price.
This is true even of the humble banana. At one time my parents were posted in Bhusaval which was the largest producer of bananas. There used to be trains carrying whole wagonfulls of bananas to various parts of the country, but we used to get only the worst bananas in the local market. When I enquired I learnt that the bananas transported by rail were meant for the big cities and for export.
I am not surprised because I remember asking for the price of a large banana of the kind from Moira and Kerala at the Convent Garden market in London. To my shock I was told that each large banana cost one pound — the equivalent of `80. No wonder producers of not only fruits or vegetables, but even sugar and rice, prefer to export their product to selling it in the local market.
The same is obviously true of fish. The best and safest fish, which do not contain formalin, are exported to the Gulf and foreign markets. Formalin-fish is preserved exclusively for locals in India because the fishing mafia and its agents like Ibrahim Shaikh have the politicians in their pockets.
This is dramatized by the fact that even two weeks after the FDA claim to have discovered formalin in fish, Ibrahim is not being arrested.
The great Manohar Parrikar who said he is personally monitoring the situation has not sacked Vijai Sardesai who has been protecting Ibrahim and reportedly forced the FDA to changed its report. No action was taken against Viswajit Rane who displayed his ignorance by claiming that formalin was present naturally in fish and later apologised.
At the Cabinet meeting on Saturday there was only a two minute discussion despite fish being a matter of life and death for Goans. The Minister for Information Technology is reported to have attacked Vishwajit Rane — not for his failure to safeguard the lives and health of the Goan — but for asking the FDA to conducts raids on trucks bringing formalin into Goa.
I thought the FDA director Jyoti Sardesai had acted on her own in the public interest after hearing reports of states like Assam and Chennai banning the import of formalin fish. The cat is now out of a bag with the revelation that the raids were ordered by Vishwajit.
The motive for ordering the raid was probably not to protect the health of Goans, but jealousy that Vijai Sardesai was getting all the commission from the agents.
The frustrating part is that it is impossible to get the FDA or the police to take any action. I recall a long time ago, when I had bought of packet of so-called imported biscuits from the Kamat supermarket at Caranzalem. When I went home and opened the packet I found there was another wrapper inside it. The expiry date on the outer wrapper was June 2016 which was acceptable since I had purchased it in February. The outer wrapper also claim that the biscuits were made in the UK. The inner wrapper told a different story all together. On the inner wrapper the expiry date was December 2015. The address of the manufacturer or exporter was Dubai. Apparently a number of so called high quality food products from the UK and Europe are repacked in Dubai and sold in India.
The modus operandi is very simple. Large quantities of expired products are purchased by sharks based in Dubai from multinationals. These are available at 10% of the actual price as they are normally discarded by the original manufacturer. These are the items that are imported into India and re-packaged in Delhi and Punjab and sold all over the country to bakras who buy food items without looking at the expiry date.
I lodged a complaint with both the FDA and the Panjim police. The owner of the supermarket who was employed by PepsiCo offered to return my money to withdraw the complaint. The FDA seized all the stock of that particular brand of biscuits. Even though the criminal procedure code specified an imprisonment of minimum of seven years no action was taken against the owners of Kamat supermarket.
I am therefore nor surprised that no action has been taken against fish mafia. The FDA actually expects us to believe that out of the 116 samples they have collected so far they have not found a single case of formalin contamination.
I would like to conclude with some guidelines which may help you from getting cheated or even poisoned — whenever you go
a supermarket never buy the food items, whether biscuits, chocolates, or even cooking oil, which is kept at the front of the shelf. The shopkeeper normally keeps food items which are about to expire in the front row. If you take the same items from behind you will find that it is much fresher and has a longer expiry date.
Also, check the date and place of manufacture. If on the packet the place of manufacture is London particularly, for food products, check whether there is a double wrapper. The outer wrapper may conceal the original wrapper which shows you that the food items is already expired. Given the power supply situation it is difficult to preserve Amul ice cream which is made in Baroda. Imagine trying to preserve ice cream or chocolate made in London or the United States!
If you notice that Cadbury chocolates from London are much tastier then the same brand bought in Panjim, it is because unlike in very cold countries (where chocolates don’t melt in the heat) in India lead and other preservatives are used to give a longer shelf life to food items.