The food regulators of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, and Assam have reportedly found nine products of major companies to be “substandard” after they failed quality tests conducted between April 2016 and January 2017, The Indian Express said on Monday.
The products include Pepsico India Holdings Private Ltd’s Mirinda, Nestle India Ltd’s Cerelac Wheat, Adani Wilmar Ltd’s Fortune oil, Marico India’s Saffola Gold oil, Parle Agro’s Frooti and a cheese spread used by the Subway chain among others, according to information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by the Express.
“The RTI replies show that Herbalife’s energy drink, Murugappa group’s Parry packaged drinking water and Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia are among the products reported to have failed the quality tests during this period,” the newspaper said.
“In a number of cases, the companies have either questioned the test procedure or have asked for re-analysis of the samples,” it added.
The Express said five reports found Mirinda to be “misbranded, substandard and unsafe”.
According to the newspaper, in a report dated January 12, 2017, Gurgaon’s food safety officer found batches of Mirinda to be “unsafe as well as substandard”. The state food lab of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Haryana Haryana also found “Mirinda” to be “misbranded” in 3 probe reports in April, May, and October last year and it found the drink to be “misbranded, substandard and unsafe” in October 2016.
“According to an RTI reply, the lab did not have the information regarding the action taken in last four cases because the matter was ‘not related’ to its ‘office’,” it said.
The food safety officer said the newspaper in an RTI reply that a “letter (has been) sent for permission for prosecution to commissioner of FDA”.
“PepsiCo operates in the state of Haryana through its franchisee. The franchisee has received only one of the reports (18th May 2016) referred to by you and has requested for a reanalysis of the sample mentioned in that report. No other notice referred by you has been received by our franchisee … All products, including Mirinda, comply with the food regulations and are completely safe and hence pulling out Mirinda is unwarranted,” a PepsiCo spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Express.
Nestle India Ltd’s infant food Cerelac Wheat was found to be substandard by the chief medical and health officer (CMHO) of Rajasthan’s Rajasmand district in a report dated October 14, 2016.
In one RTI reply, the CMHO told the Express that Cerelac failed at the quality parameter of “total protein”.
Asked what action has been taken against the company, the officer’s RTI reply stated: “Anusandhan jaari (Investigation is ongoing).
The company did not respond to requests seeking comment from the newspaper.
In an RTI reply, the CMHO of Bundi in Rajasthan said that the acid value of Fortune, a refined rice brand oil from Adani Wilmar Ltd, was found to be 0.67, which must not be higher than 0.5, in test results on July 15, 2016.
The officer told the Express that the matter is under investigation when it asked if any action has been taken against the company.
“So far we have not received a notice on Refined Rice Bran Oil from Bundi, CMO. As regards the acid value on Rice Bran Oil, the permitted limit is 0.50, However, due to the faulty procedure (wrong indicator) adopted by many public analysts, the result may show acid value on higher side … There is no question of withdrawing the product from Indian Market as Rice Bran Oil is one of the healthiest oils available in the market and our product meets the standards as provided under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006,” an Adani spokesperson told the newspaper.
Saffola Gold oil
A sample of Saffola Gold, blended edible vegetable oil, was picked up on May 9 last year by food safety officer Naresh Kumar Chenjara in the western state’s Sawai Madhopur.
The Expres said the probe results came on May 27, 2016, and said the product was substandard as its acid value was 1.12 instead of the permitted limit of 0.50.
The results also said Saffola Gold does not conform to the prescribed provisions of food safety and standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additive) Regulation, 2011.
“Under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, (we are) submitting chargesheets in court against the firms/manufacturers,” Umesh Sharma, CMHO, Sawai Madhopur, told the newspaper in an RTI reply.
Marico Limited did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Processed cheese spread
Similarly, a sample of the processed cheese spread used by Subway Systems Indian Private Ltd picked up by the food safety officer of Faridabad on July 21, 2016, was found to be substandard as it was “misbranded”, according to the newspaper.
The Express said when asked about the action taken, the food safety officer, in an RTI reply, said: “Case pending to launch”. But Subway denied using processed cheese spread.
“We would like to place on record that Subway does not use ‘Processed cheese spread’ as an ingredient in any of its products,” a Subway spokesperson told Hindustan Times in its response on Monday morning.
The Express reported Parle Agro’s mango drink, Frooti, was found to be “substandard” as it failed on the “physical” parameter by the state public health laboratory of Assam in 3 probe reports between June 13, July 14 and August 2, 2016.
The samples were manufactured by Padmesh Beverages, which has been given a contract by Parle Agro, at its plant in Satgaon, Guwahati, Assam.
“The action against samples which have been declared substandard by the food analyst to the government of Assam are being taken and are at different stages of adjudication in the court of the adjudicating officers in the district headquarters of the state,” the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Assam told the Express in an RTI reply to the Express.
The newspaper said Parle Agro did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Parry packaged water
The food safety wing of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu found that the aerobic microbial count in the sample of Parry packaged water was 32 colony forming units (CFU)/ml, which must not be more than 20 CFU/ml, in samples of Parry Enterprises India’s packaged drinking water taken on July 20, 2016.
A microbial limit test checks the presence of microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, and mold in a sample is exceeding the limit or not.
The Kanchipuram wing stated in an RTI reply that “adjudicating process will be started against the concerned food business operators”.
The Murugappa group company said: “Please note that we are unable to refer to the Probe Report you have referred above, as we have not received this report. However, we were made aware of a test report (which reported the numbers mentioned by you above) by Kings Institute dated 20th July which was an enclosure to a letter from FSSAI dated 29th July 2016, on a matter relating to labelling. We understood that this observation made by the Test house was in itself inaccurate and based on inadequate and perfunctory analysis as per the Act.”
Haldiram aloo bhujia
The newspaper said the state food lab of FDA Haryana found the aloo bhujia produced by Haldiram Foods International Private Ltd in a probe report of July 2016 to be “misbranded” or not compliant with rules in Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labeling) Regulations, 2011.
“The state food lab did not comment on the action taken in this probe report and said that the matter is ‘not related to this office’,” it said.
Haldiram did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Fresh energy drink mix
The Express reported that Haryana’s food lab picked up a sample of fresh energy drink mix by Herbalife International India Private Ltd from a shop in Model Town, Sonipat in Haryana and the test results came on May 30, 2015, which stated that the product was found to be “substandard”.
It said the food safety officer of Sonipat said in an RTI reply that a case has been “filed in ADC (Additional Deputy Commissioner) court, Sonipat”.
“With respect to your queries kindly be informed that the matter is sub judice and it would not be appropriate to make any comments at this point of time,” the company told the newspaper.