Kerala Mobile Lab Testing: Indian State Stepping Up Efforts To Identify Tainted Food

Kerala has set up mobile lab testing after a number of incidents of tainted food reaching the Indian public, and the initiative will create the largest mobile effort ever to check edible goods.

The state is setting up three mobile laboratories that will check the quality of food. Officials said they believe the effort can become a model for other states.

“This is the first time that any state is setting up such mobile labs at check posts to test quality of edible goods,” said State Food Safety Joint Commissioner K Anil Kumar. “By setting up mobile test labs, Kerala is actually showcasing a model for other states in the drive against adulterated articles. We are planning to open them at selected check posts in the state, but the exact locations are yet to be decided.”

The Kerala mobile lab testing is in part a response to the Maggi noodle controversy that erupted earlier this month. Testing showed that Nestlé’s Maggi noodles had high levels of lead across the country.

The controversy uncovered the dismal state of food testing and safety standards in India, the Huffington Post reported.

“And lead poisoning is only one of the concerns. Bio safety standards in India have an abysmal record. Health minister J.P. Nadda told Parliament in December that 20 [percent] of the random samples (13,571 out of 72,000) collected and tested by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India during 2013-14 did not conform to standards. The agency has not disclosed the details of the tests. So we don’t know which kind of adulteration is the most common.”

The effort at the Kerala mobile lab tests are meant to stop tainted food from being distributed. At the same time, the government is increasing its efforts to check vegetables and fruits for pesticide content.

“Though the quality of food articles, oil, milk, milk products and water can be tested at these labs, the pesticide content in vegetables cannot be examined there as it is a time consuming analytical process,” the official said.

But pesticide manufactures are lashing out at the Kerala government, saying that claims about high pesticide residue in vegetables from Tamil Nadu are false.

“The scientific data collected from Kerala government itself does not support their allegations. So our appeal (to them) is not to make any unfounded allegations against any Indian/Tamil Nadu farmer,” an adviser for Crop Care Federation of India told reporters.

The Kerala mobile lab tests are expected to begin shortly.

[Image via Getty Images / Mark Kolbe]