Parliamentary panel calls for controlling Aflatoxin contamination in milk products
New Delhi: In order to keep a check on the adulteration of milk and milk products with Aflatoxin-M1 that adversely affects the health of the common masses, the Parliamentary Committee recently called for controlling Aflatoxin contamination in food grains and to improve the quality and safety of the milk and milk products.
The recommendation to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) came after the committee noted that mycotoxins found in mould contamination of food grains continued to cause various human diseases.
The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, headed by Prof. Ram Gopal Yadav, submitted its 126th report on Demands for Grants 2021-22 earlier this month.
Some Aspergillus species contain aflatoxins (AFs), which are mycotoxins. Ingested Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is metabolized into carcinogenic Aflatoxin M1 (AFM1) in dairy cows, which is then extracted by milk, posing a health risk to consumers such as causing cancer, abdominal pain, vomiting, hepatitis, impaired growth in children and also death after acute exposure to high concentrations in food.
In this regard, the department related to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare stated that the existing law governing punishment for offences under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 is based on a graded structure.
According to the study, the penalties for serious offences such as adulteration and consuming poisoned food are more extreme. For less serious offences such as substandard food, misbranded food, false advertisements, food containing foreign matter, and unhygienic or unsanitary food processing or manufacturing, the penalty is just a fine ranging from one lakh to five lakhs. In the case of unhealthy food, the punishment will be a minimum of Rs. ten lakhs and a minimum of seven years in jail, with the possibility of life imprisonment if the ingestion of such food results in death. It might not be out of position to point out that the FSS Act allows for more deterrent punishment than the Indian Penal Code of 1860.
As recommended by the Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee (DRSC) on Health and Family Welfare, in case of willful adulteration resulting in unsafe food, the punishment is being proposed to be more deterrent even in cases where actual death or injury has not taken place but the unsafe food has the potential to cause such eventuality. Section 59A is proposed to be inserted for the purpose.
Further, in terms of imposing more deterrent punishment in cases where actual death or injury has not taken place but such unsafe food has the potential to cause such eventuality, the committee appreciated FSSAI for acceptance of the recommendations of DRSC on Health and Family Welfare according.
However, in the report, the committee expressed its concern over the delay in the insertion of Section – 59A to give effect to the said deterrent punishment. As a result, the Committee recommended that the clause be incorporated into the Act as soon as possible.
According to the report, FSSAI has been constantly working to improve the quality and safety of milk and milk products. The maximum residual limit for Aflatoxin-M1 has been fixed to 0.5 µg/kg in harmonization with the international standards-Codex which is based on the risk assessment by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).
Furthermore, FSSAI has made it mandatory for the commercial feed intended for cattle to comply with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) specifications for Compounded feeds for Cattle (IS 2052:2009) and to carry a BIS certification mark on the product label which will be enforced from 1st July 2021.
In light of the above concerns, the Committee strongly recommended FSSAI to control Aflatoxin contamination in food grains. The Committee further recommended the FSSAI to improve the quality and safety of the milk and milk products as adulterated milk with Aflatoxin contamination adversely affects the health of the common masses.
The Committee expressed its optimism that compliance with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) specification for compounded feeds for cattle, which will take effect on July 1, 2021, would ensure food quality and safety.