The recent raids conducted by the food safety department at food processing units have brought to light the trend of adulterated, inferior quality food items, edible oil and artificially ripened fruits being supplied to the city markets on a large-scale. The latest being the seizure of 15,000 litres of adulterer edible oil from a large-scale manufacturing unit in Madurai city on Wednesday night. The officials have closed down the unit, which was functioning at Hunuman Nagar in Chinthamani and samples collected are send to Chennai for testing.
This is the second such seizure in Madurai. Earlier, more than 4,000 litres of adulterated oil was seized at Alwarpuram near Goripalayam. According to officials, the seizures could be just the tip of the iceberg. They believe that the quantity seized on Wednesday could be just a day’s production and the product could have been in use for long, as the unit has been functioning for many years. Officials said that thousands of litres of adulterated oil could still be in retail stores.
Probably for the first time in Madurai the officials have seized the flavours used to ‘convert’ palmolein into groundnut and gingili oils. The seizure includes 10 litres of essence imported from Malaysia.
A team of food safety officials led by designated officer for food safety, Madurai district, Dr M Somasundaram conducted a search in the unit, which has been silently functioning in a 5,000 square feet space amid various other factories. "Everybody knows adulteration takes place in oil and sold at cheaper price. This is the first time that we could find essences used for adulteration. They were hidden inside a godown in a house belongs to the manufacturer," said Somasundaram.
The adulterated oil is packed in various quantities from 50 ml to 5 litres. While one litre of palmolein costs around Rs 70, the repacked oil after adding the essence is sold for more than Rs 100. It was found in two brands – Amutham and Maan. Officials said that the manufacturer has tried to play it safe by mentioning on the sachet of Amutham brand that the oil is for external use only. But the letters are very small to notice and it is not in Tamil. But in the Maan brand there is no such ‘warning’.
Talking about the health hazards of the oil, Dr Somasundaram said that while a litre of good quality groundnut oil is sold at Rs 200 and gingili oil at Rs 300, they have priced them around just Rs 100. People tend to be misguided and purchase them. When the price is just the half, they tend to use more oil in cooking, which will result in heart problems, stroke, obesity and diabetes. High consumption of a quantity of adulterated oil can also cause infertility, if used for a longer period of time.
Somasundaram said that they have warned retailers to be wary of these brands and have urged them to take it off the shelf. "Stringent action would be taken against the retailers also if they found to be selling adulterated oil. It is their duty to ensure quality," he warned.