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Food safety department of HP lacks concern about duties, says state HC
Monday, 12 January, 2015, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
The Himachal Pradesh High Court said that the state food safety department is unconcerned about its duties. In three years’ time, the department collected only 117 samples, and analysed just 65 of them.

The court stated that despite several complaints of the rampant use of vaccines such as oxytocin in milk, fruit and vegetables, the food safety department was lacking in its approach to deal with the situation. It also observed that the lab to check the presence of such vaccines was ill-equipped.

A division bench, comprising Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan, passed orders while hearing a petition taken up suo moto by the Court as public interest litigation (PIL) on a report published in a Hindi daily on the misuse of the oxytocin vaccine.

The Court said, “Amicus Curiae Satyen Vaidya submitted that only 11 fruit samples of fruit four vegetable samples, 11 non-vegetarian food samples and 91 milk samples were lifted in the entire state during the last three years, despite the huge paraphernalia of the food safety department and the drug control administration.”

“The concern of the food safety department towards its duties is evident from the fact that 117 samples were collected and only 65 were analysed. The Composite Testing Laboratory (CTL), Kandaghat does not have the facility for detection of oxytocin in food samples,” it added.

The Court said, “It was not specified whether the food samples were sent specifically for detection of oxytocin or not.”

It also observed that the Amicus Curiae also submitted that the Drug Control Administration had failed to provide data about the steps taken by it to check its abuse and was conspicuously silent about the possibility of drug oxytocin being illegally imported into the state from other parts of the country, and even overseas.

No date was provided to show steps taken by the drug control administration to keep strict vigil and check on the manufacturers and chemists indulging in its sale, barring one seizure in the last three years, when 254 injections of oxytocin for veterinary use were seized.

No prescribed norms

Himachal Pradesh’s health safety and regulations director filed a response in the state High Court to the comments of the Amicus Curiae on the issue of the large-scale use of harmful oxytocin vaccine in milk, fruit and vegetables.

In reply to this, he submitted that the matter, under the present circumstances, pertained more to research rather than the regulations. The state government did not have any mechanism to test the factum of oxytocin in fruit and vegetables, milk and non-vegetarian products injected with the said drug.

The reply added that the government of India had not prescribed any norms, under either the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act, 1954 or the Food Safety and Standards Regulations (FSSR), 2011, for carrying out tests of oxytocin in foods.

Media reports of the misuse of oxytocin and its harmful effects on human health were not based on any scientific data, and no such ill-effects were reported by the Indian Council on Agricultural Research (ICAR) on the animals on which experiments were carried out.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) had not published a scientific report on the adverse effects of the rapid metabolisation of oxytocin, to undetectable levels, in the liver and kidneys of animals who consume milk containing a high amount of the hormone.

Since the half-life of oxytocin varies between three and 12 minutes, its continued presence in milk, vegetables and fruit is unlikely.

In humans, oxytocin is not absorbed when taken orally, as the same gets converted into amino acids by peptide digesting enzymes.

Himachal Pradesh’s health safety and regulations director also submitted that the state regulatory authorities had not received any complaint regarding the illegal import of oxytocin. The Court has directed the Centre to file its reply within six weeks and posted the matter for April 1, 2015.
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