Every food-borne illness outbreak should be treated to its source


Dr KK Aggarwal    19 April 2018

Recently, the CDC investigated a multistate outbreak of E. coli in the US and sourced it to Romain lettuce grown from the Yuma, Arizona growing region, although no particular grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified. Further to this, the CDC issued an advisory for the consumers as well as retailers and restaurants.

For consumers, the CDC has recommended that they should “ask retailers where their romaine lettuce was sourced from and not eat or buy chopped romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona. If you have already bought products containing chopped romaine lettuce, such as bagged salads, salad mixes or prepared salads, throw them away and do not eat them”. Similarly, the CDC has asked retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators to not sell or serve any chopped romaine lettuce from the winter growing areas in Yuma, Arizona. If the source of the chopped romaine lettuce cannot be determined, then it should neither be sold nor served.

Food adulteration is not uncommon in India. Stories of food adulteration, are often covered by media. Milk and milk products, food grains, pulses, flour, condiments, sugar, spices and condiments, vegetables, salt are amongst the most common adulterated foods. The last major food recall across the country perhaps was for Maggi Noodles in 2015 due to lead content beyond the permissible levels.

In India, most cases of food contamination are passed off as food poisoning. The patient is treated for his symptoms and the matter ends there.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued guidelines for food recall by food business operators (FBO). Released last year, these guidelines require all FBOs engaged in the manufacturing, or importing, or wholesale supply of packaged food products to have a recall plan. An FBO is a person who carries on any activity related to manufacture, process, packaging, storage, transportation, distribution or import of food or provides food services. However, FBOs in food retail service sector (such as restaurants, caterers, take-away joints, etc.) who are not engaged in the foregoing activities are not required to have a recall plan.

The onus is on the FBOs to have a recall plan and implement it. Is there a system in place to check if these guidelines are implemented, if at all in the first place and then how stringently are they being implemented? To ensure food safety and thereby public health, there should be no exemptions to these guidelines.

Food adulteration is a punishable offence under the Indian Penal Code: Adulteration of food or drink intended for sale (IPC 272) and sale of noxious food or drink (IPC 273).

Every food-borne illness outbreak should be treated to its source like in the US and an advisory or health warning issued for the general public.

When will we reach such a level in India?


Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri AwardeeVice President CMAAOGroup Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Immediate Past National President IMA  

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