In a shocking sting operation carried out by India Today, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has come out with a rather tainted image.
The authority had recently called out Nestle for manufacturing noodles with higher than permissible lead content because of which the company had recalled its popular Maggi noodles.
Nestle had even challenged FSSAI in the Bombay High Court and all the 90 samples that covered 6 variants of the noodle were given a clear chit by three food laboratories authorized by the Bombay High Court itself. So then why did the UP labs report otherwise?
The Nominal Sum
So the reporters involved posed as businessmen who were looking to launch a new snack in the market known as Sharmaji Ki Bhujia. They spoke to FSSAI officials in Uttar Pradesh regarding the excessive lead content in their product. To this, both the officers readily agreed to help. For a fixed amount of INR 20,000 per year to the officers Ramesh Chand from Pilakhuwa, Shiv Das Singh from Bulandshahar. This sum would be used to “take care of” other officials and this was the nominal sum for any product to be given a green signal.
The officers also stated that it was possible to give foods a green chit without even conducting any tests.
According to another official, KT Singh from Mukhteshwar, it is possible to oversee faults in products by making sure that the authorized personnel in charge has been “taken care of”.
Features of The Bribe Package
So if you’re ready to shed a hefty amount to (strike) donate in order to project your product as top-notch and the competitors’ as sub-standard, FSSAI is your go-to authority according to these officers.
In the operation they openly claim to have tampered with seals and having added adulterants in food samples before sending them of to labs for assessment. Why? Well obviously because the brands refused to donate silly!
Ramesh Chand stated that it is likely that this what happened in the case of Maggi as well.
The Ugly Truth
Brands refuse to pay up hefty sums to authorities and in return end up paying double or triple the amount in losses. So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise if corporates continue to keep alive this bribe cycle because it’s obvious who’s the more powerful authority here.
In a statement, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said and DNA India quotes regarding the sting operation, “standard products are being labeled as sub-standard and faulty products are being passed by such corrupt officials. This is a big crime and I demand strongest possible action against all those found guilty,” Paswan said. “As a consumer minister I assure you that my department will take up the case seriously. FSSAI doesn’t come under my ministry but I want to make it clear that strong action will be taken against such officials. They should be sent to jail,” he added.