COIMBATORE, December 12: Food safety officers in the city said close to 50 percent of the ghee samples they collected in the last one week are found to be of ‘substandard’ quality.
“It means they have been adulterated. In the case of ghee, it’s mainly vanaspathi,” said the designated food safety officer R Kathiravan. “At least two of the four samples tested last week were found to be substandard,” he said.
Vanaspati, which is basically hydrogenated vegetable oil, is known to be high in trans fatty acids. “Unsaturated fat is converted into saturated fat during processing, that’s how it becomes solid,” said Radhaisri S, associate professor, department of nutrition and dietetics at PSG College of Arts and Science. “It is often used as a substitute for ghee because it is cheaper, but it delays digestion and demands more antioxidants,” she added.
Most of the substandard samples collected were found to be made by small time players functioning out of small houses in various parts of the city. “They do not supply to bigger brands,” confirmed Kathiravan. “They mainly bottle it themselves and retail it from petty shops in the neighbourhood,” he added. They are usually booked for misbranding too, because their font is unreadable.
While some manufacturers do mention that their ghee is not for consumption, others don’t even provide the nutritional value of their product, said another food safety officer.
“They claim their ghee is specially made for temple donations, especially for Sabarimala pilgrims. But shop owners rarely ask the customer for what purpose the ghee is going to be used,” said the officer.
Permanently sealing such adulterated ghee manufacturers is also close to impossible, say officers. “The biggest challenge we face is that, every time we seal the unit, they spring up again in another location with another brand name,” added the officer.
The problem of adulteration extends to cooking oil too, said Kathiravan. “Of the 12 samples we have taken in the past one month, two were found to be substandard,” he said. “They often sell rice bran oil in the guise of groundnut or gingelly oil. Since they are the same color and many people can’t identify the difference in flavor these manufacturers get away,” he said.
Officers advise people to buy oil and ghee retailed by well-known brands and in closed packets. “Now, big brands have also come up with 100 ml and 200 ml sachets, so it is easier for customers to buy in small quantities,” he added.
The food safety office is likely to start cracking down on the manufacturers of the adulterated samples over the next one week. “We will collect legal samples from manufacturers and then file legal cases and seal them,” said an officer.