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Following a BJP councillor alleging that food served in Karnataka’s Indira Canteens was poisonous, the standard of its food has come into question.
Sending samples to the Ramaiah Advanced Testing Laboratory and to the government-run Public Health Institute, Umesh Shetty, the corporator from Govindarajanagar (Ward 104) in Bengaluru, got the food tested. After the results suggested that the food has high levels of bacteria, he claimed that the food was ‘poisonous’.
On February 20, food samples were collected from Indira Canteens at Byatarayanapura, JP Nagar, Jayanagar and Nagapura. The tests were conducted by Public Health Institute (PHI) and Ramaiah Advanced Testing Laboratory. According to the lab report, the sample of bisibelebath was unfit for human consumption as it was bacteria and fungus ridden. The report further suggested that the microbiological quality of the rice and sambar samples was “not within satisfactory limits”.
Dr Kishore Shenoy of Ramaiah Advanced Testing Laboratory said that Escherichia coli (E coli) bacteria found in boiled rice could cause vomiting and abdominal cramps.
The presence of no other pathogenic organisms, however, could be found.
Indira canteen, a food subsidisation programme that the Karnataka government runs, was initiated by Siddaramaiah-led Congress government. The coalition government that came to power last year carried it forward. They are known for serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at meagre rates.
“We heard about pourakarmikas suffering from stomach upset, diarrhoea due to eating Indira Canteen food and decided to get food samples tested,” Umesh Shetty told The News Minute. He further said that the CCTV cameras in the canteens are not working. He plans to file a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
After the reports came, BBMP was ordered by Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara to conduct quality tests on more food samples and take action against any guilty contractors.
Although BBMP has not found any poisonous or pathogenic contents in food samples on which they have recently conducted tests, these samples will now be tested in 12 labs that are accredited by the National Accreditation Board and approved by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, in order to clear any existing confusion.
Gangambike Mallikarjun, two of her predecessors and a few corporators, however, vouched for the quality of food served at Indira Canteens, putting up a stout defence.
Contesting claims by Umesh Shetty, they even went on to produce findings by a BBMP food analyst on the quality of food samples from select Indira canteens. She warned that if charges framed by Shetty are not proven, they would ensure serious action against him.
“Indira Canteens were started to cater to poor people who can’t afford quality food at cheaper prices and it is a hit in Bengaluru. BJP corporator Shetty has tried to politicise the issue in the wake of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,” Gangambike claimed. She asked citizens not to be afraid as the food is fit for consumption, as samples from Indira canteens in two wards of Mahadevapura assembly constituency were recently taken by the BBMP food analyst, and were found to be satisfactory.
Congress floor party leader Abdul Wajeed also said that the allegations made by Shetty has no truth and credibility.
While the attempt to set up Indira Canteens to provide subsidised food across the state has been appreciated by many, the administration of the canteens and the quality of the food have been questioned by BJP leaders on previous occasions too.
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