Kerala continues to record an increasing number of cases of food poisoning, despite the fact that the Food Safety Department is hampered by limited testing equipment and a staffing shortfall. Even though some attempts have been made at regulation and licencing, the diversified food business is essentially unregulated. The State Food Safety Commissionerate’s microbiology labs are not accredited, making it difficult to ensure that individuals found guilty in food poisoning cases receive the proper sentence.
About 6 lakh hotels and other food production and distribution facilities are located in Kerala, but fewer than 50,000 of them have a licence.
According to the National Food Safety Act, the labs accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories must conduct tests on the food samples that have been confiscated (NABL). Only test findings from these labs would be accepted by the court.
Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode are home to the Kerala Food Safety Department’s primary laboratories. However, these labs’ chemical divisions are the only ones with NABL certification. To detect the presence of pesticides, metals, etc. in food samples, chemical labs are utilised.
The Food Safety Department depends on the results of tests conducted at the microbiology labs. These microbiology labs will analyse both raw and cooked food as well as drinking water.
Three years have passed since the Center set aside Rs 3 crore to upgrade the lab amenities. However, no steps have yet been taken to upgrade the labs and get certification.