Hyderabad the focus of numerous food fraud scams

Hyderabad in India has become the centre of a massive counterfeit crackdown as authorities swooped on numerous dairy farms and manufacturing facilities following claims of plastic rice, milk adulteration and other food fraud.

Authorities have called for calm following a number of recent allegations over plastic rice in the region, which are now being investigated.

Students in a private hostel claimed they were served plastic rice, which was sticky enough that they made it into balls and played cricket with them. Another individual believed he was sold plastic rice from a local merchant, while a TV journalist complained his biryani from a hotel was made from plastic rice; he was then attacked by the hotel owner. Several other complaints about the purchase of plastic rice have also been made.

Doctors say that plastic rice, which is made from either plastic-coated potato or carved out of plastic sheets, is a particularly dangerous health risk which can increase the risk of cancer by 15-20 per cent, The Times of India reported.

Plastic rice appears to be becoming more prevalent than other forms of adulteration including mixing sand, marble chips, stones, chalk powder and brick powder with spice and rice.

The reports of plastic rice have yet to be verified – the biryani rice was not plastic but it had been polished with chemicals above the permissible levels, tests showed.

About eight other rice samples are being tested and the department of weights and measures has announced it is forming a special enforcement team to investigate the claims.

“We also came to know about plastic or fake rice through media and social networking sites,” Srinivasa Rao, W&M assistant food controller, told The Times of India. “We have not received any instructions from our higher-ups so far on this issue but locally I am sending fur food inspectors to check rice with the main rice traders in Visakhapatnam.”

Rice traders have denied the claims.

Meanwhile, also in Hyderabad, 15 dairy farms were raided with 15 people arrested on the grounds that buffaloes were being injected with the hormone oxytocin to increase milk production.

In a statement, police said: “With the practice of injecting oxytocin twice a day, the drug remains in the milk and results in serious issues like breast cancer, prostate cancer and impotency in men. This practice of adulteration will also result in sever medical issues in adolescents.”

The taskforce of Hyderabad city along with local police, seized 48 oxytocin injections and 16 syringes. The sale of the drug without a prescription is banned.

The dairy raids follow the busting of two separate milk adulteration rackets in May in the city. In one operation, the dairy farm was diluting milk with a water and milk powder solution to increase the quantity, while the second operation involved adding harmful substances such as urea to milk to boost the fat content.

There were also raids on various manufacturing sites in the city. Three sites were targeted for allegedly mixing synthetic food colours, mashed potato, onion, banana pulp and unbranded acid to ginger and garlic paste to enhance its texture and colour. Three people were arrested.

“They did not have valid licenses,” said B. Limba Reddy, DCP, taskforce. “This adulterated stuff has adverse effects on the consumers. It also causes abdomen disorders and sometimes cancer too. About 15.60 quintals of adulterated ginger-garlic paste and other raw material were seized.”

In a separate raid, one person was apprehended at a water bottling facility for their part in selling tap water as Kenvey and Royal Mineral water brands, while 60 bottles of honey adulterated with dry fruits, sugar and glucose solution were seized in another raid at another manufacturing facility. And a final raid on a fennel seeds processing unit seized about 30kgs of seeds adulterated with artificial food colour powder and other chemicals.

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