Assam Food Safety Dept Finds Sub-Standard Chemicals in Survey of 43 Pan Masala Brands
In a sample survey of pan masala conducted by the Food Safety Department, Government of Assam, some of the brands were found to contain magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) which reportedly causes cancer and other diseases.
The survey was conducted as per direction of the Gauhati High Court in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) number 19/2020 filed by Jitul Deka, general secretary of Asomiya Yuva Mancha on 17th February 2020, seeking the court’s intervention in bann
ing the manufacture, supply, and sale of 'Pan Masala' in Assam.
The PIL contended, “It has been pointed out that Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (for short, "Act of 2006") read with Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011 (for short, "Regulation of 2011"), (Regulation 3.1.7) itself places a restriction on consumption of "Anti-caking Agents" exceeding 2% Magnesium Carbonate. The said provision, however, is not being implemented. It has been argued that Section 3(zz) of the Act of 2006 clearly stipulates and defines unsafe food yet even though Magnesium Carbonate is a harmful substance, consumption of the said chemical in Pan Masalas is being allowed.”
Samples of 43 brands of pan masala were tested from across Assam, and certain samples were found to contain magnesium carbonate (MgCO3).
Anupam Gogoi, Food Analyst to the Government of Assam, who conducted the laboratory test of the samples, informed G Plus that although samples of some brands of pan masala were found to have contained MgCO3, it cannot be concluded to be harmful.
“It cannot be labelled as cancer causing but it is definitely substandard. There are three categories in which the food samples are rated - unsafe, sub-standard and misbranded,” he said.
As per the Food Safety And Standards Act, 2006, “Unsafe food” means an article of food whose nature, substance or quality is so affected as to render it injurious to health, “sub-standard” food does not meet the specified standards but not so as to render the article of food unsafe, and “misbranded” are those that are offered or promoted for sale with false, misleading or deceptive claims.
“The magnesium carbonate found in the samples is an anti-caking agent which is allowed in some categories of food as such. Even though it is not allowed to be used in pan masala, it cannot be inferred that it is injurious to health, as far as regulations are concerned,” added Gogoi.
“We cannot conclude it to be cancer-causing, but the Food safety Department has submitted the findings to the honourable court and we are waiting judgement,” said L R Nampui, Designated Officer, Food Safety.
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