It’s not enough to know what to eat. You have to know how to eat it too. Watch out for tox­ins.

India Today - - HEALTH SPECIAL -

What do up­mar­ket restau­rants, Udipi restau­rants and street food ven­dors have in com­mon? Be­sides the de­sire to keep their dishes tasty, they use cheap rice to make your favourite idli or dosa. It may not con­tain pes­ti­cide residue, the type which caused the Mid- Day meal tragedy in Bi­har, but the chances of such foods hav­ing afla­tox­ins are rather high. Afla­toxin is pro­duced by the mould as­pergillus. When present in high quan­ti­ties in sta­ples like maize, it causes toxic hep­ati­tis re­sult­ing in deaths. On the other hand, ex­po­sure to small quan­ti­ties of afla­tox­ins for pro­longed pe­riod could lead to liver can­cer.

Be­sides afla­tox­ins, a va­ri­ety of other mould tox­ins also oc­cur in foods such as ochra­tox­ins in cof­fee, de­oxyni­valenol in wheat and pat­ulin in ap­ple juice.

Apart from nat­u­ral tox­ins, there are other man- made con­tam­i­nants such as pes­ti­cide and ve­teri­nary drug residues and heavy met­als which pose dan­ger to hu­man health. Re­cently, Min­is­ter of State for Com­merce D. Pu­ran­daresh­wari ad­mit­ted in the Ra­jya Sabha that in the last three years, the Euro­pean

Union had in­creased the num­ber of no­ti­fi­ca­tions due to al­leged con­tam­i­nants in food ex­ports from In­dia.

The prob­lem of food adul­ter­ation and sell­ing of sub­stan­dard foods in In­dia is com­mon. This ranges from mix­ing of wa­ter with milk to adul­ter­at­ing mus­tard oil with arge­mone oil which has re­sulted in the deadly epi­demic dropsy on sev­eral oc­ca­sions in In­dia. Food ad­di­tives like food colours over per­mis­si­ble lim­its could pose a risk to hu­man health. Ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied foods and use of nan­otech­nol­ogy in foods are the two emerg­ing is­sues.

What In­dia to­day needs is a grad­ual change in fo­cus from food sup­ply to food safety. In­dia has a long way to go to achieve the food safety stan­dards for en­sur­ing safe food to its cit­i­zens, though this fact has been recog­nised since the time of the leg­endary Chanakya.

Dr Ramesh V. Bhat In­ter­na­tional food

safety spe­cial­ist

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