Here's some great news to sweeten your Diwali.
A private laboratory in suburban Ranchi has been granted accreditation by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which will allow it to put all those festive mithaiunder the adulteration scanner, besides testing routine agricultural produce.
Sun-Tech Laboratory in Tupudana, around 15km from the heart of the capital, will offer the authorities, individuals and organisations an alternative platform to screen the quality of edible items. It is arguably the only private lab in the state to earn the FSSAI tag and is expected to unburden the lone state-owned facility in Namkum.
On Mahashtami last month, civil contractor Rahul Kumar had found worms in a packet of figpedas bought from a prominent confectionery shop, Rajasthan Kalewalaya, in Kutchery. The sweets were priced at Rs 1,000 a kilo.
The district administration acted after Kumar complained to deputy commissioner Manoj Kumar. Food inspector K.P. Singh on Thursday collected samples for testing.
The report is expected in a few days.
Now, with Diwali round the corner, adulterated sweets and other food items in the market cannot be ruled out. Unfortunately, the decade-old state lab is mired in problems, including inadequate infrastructure and acute manpower crunch. This is where Sun-Tech hopes to step in.
Preeti Varma, quality manager and in-charge of the Tupudana-based lab, said they were recognised by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) since 2008 and also the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), but an FSSAI tag was a matter of pride.
"The gazette of our accreditation was published by FSSAI on September 14. However, we received an intimation on email only in last week of last month. The accreditation has to be renewed every two years," she said, adding that Sun-Tech would be the first private lab in the state to conduct food testing.
So long, the Tupudana facility had been screening building and road construction materials, and minerals in water and soil, among other things.
"Earlier, even if we tested food, the report wouldn't have had legal sanctity. Now, that problem is over. If someone is launching a new edible product, our report can be used for quality labelling. We shall further be able to test samples of food for suspected adulteration," Varma said.
The quality manager informed that they currently had six food analysts on board and testing charges would depend on the nature of profiling one required.
"An adulteration test can start at Rs 500 and go up to over Rs 10,000 if the range of verification includes bio-profiling, component test, nutrition test, label claim, shelf life, inorganic contaminants, animal tissue content and so on," Varma said, stressing that they were empanelled to conduct quality check on all products being sold through the military canteen stores department.
Namkum food lab analyst Chaturbhuj Meena confirmed that Sun-Tech had indeed won FSSAI accreditation, but couldn't say if it was a first in the state.
"We are yet to understand all the parameters under which the private agency is empowered to conduct tests," Meena said when asked if the accreditation would lessen the burden on the state lab.