Shit! It’s your food!

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Two months ago,  it was plastic in our rice. This month, it’s shit in our sweets.

Once again, I was involved in a panel discussion on a local TV channel (TV9 – Bangalore), about the safety of our food. TV9 mounted a sting operation on major sweet shops across Bangalore. Diwali is the most important Indian festival, and the demand for exotic sweets is especially high at this time of the year.

Manufacturers of sweetmeats take full advantage of the high demand – and the government’s lax attitude – to peddle all kinds of shit on unsuspecting consumers. And I mean that literally.

TV9 went around the city purchasing sweets and sent them to a reputed food testing lab. I know this lab well, and I can tell you this lab is one of the best in India. Can’t disclose the name of the lab, because the channel asked me not to. But they did show me the lab reports.

And those lab reports were horrifying. Horrifying, but not surprising. I’ve been in quality control and R&D since thirty years, and I know very well how badly our food is adulterated – and what evil lurks in the minds of those who manufacture our foods.

Without execption, all the sweets tested had high amounts of coliforms in them. Coliforms are bacteria that are found exclusively in the colons of warm-blooded animals (like us). Human and animal shit are filled with coliform bacteria. There are about a hundred species of coliforms and many of them are harmless. But a significant number of coliform species are deadly pathogens and can cause severe gastro-intestinal infections. To make matters worse, coliforms are usually accompanied by other deadly bugs like viruses, protozoans and fungi, all of which can make you crap yourself to death.

To make matters even worse, coliforms are resistant to most antibacterial medicines, thanks to indiscriminate prescribing by doctors. And to make matters still worse, several coliforms have long incubation periods, upto a week in some cases. That is, if you eat contaminated sweets, you may get severe diarrhoea a week later, and you will never know what caused it.

The presence of coliforms in your food therefore, is a clear indication of fecal contamination. In other words, you are literally eating shit. How does shit get into your sweets, you ask? Obviously, through bad water, bad handling and bad storage. And zero safety standards and zero enforcement by the authorities. And of course, bribery and corrupt officialdom.

The worst culprits are koya based sweets like peda. Did you know that koya is usually stored for months in the open before use? I am always scared of round sweets like laddoos, because I’ve seen how filthy are the hands that pat those sweets into a round shape.

And beware of all sweets coated with ‘vark’, i.e. silver foil. It’s not silver in the first place, and that foil is made by pounding whatever metal they use, between slices of raw intestines taken from slaughtered goats and lambs. That’s right, raw intestines. Filled with coliforms. And remember that an innocent lamb was butchered so that you could enjoy that kaju katli.

Not just coliforms, all the sweets had high amounts of lead – another indicator of bad water being used.

I’ve saved the best for the last. All the lab reports showed that not one of those sweets had sugar in them. No sugar. All had ridiculously high levels of saccharine in them. But no sugar. Saccharine is an unsafe artificial sweetener that can cause cancer, but you already know that, don’t you?

So. Your sweets have shit in them. Bacteria. Fungi. Worms. Heavy metals. Stale milk solids. Artificial flavors. Unsafe dyes. But no sugar.

As I said, horrifying, but not surprising. Our food has always been contaminated and heavily adulterated. But no one seems to care.

In spite of dire warnings by experts (like yours truly), in spite of sting operations by the media, in spite of validated reports by certified testing labs, morons like you will still pay Rs.500/- a kilo for those sweet little packets of shit.

Can’t you make simple sweets at home, to celebrate your festivals? That’s what our festivals are about. Home-made sweets, sharing with family and friends, enjoying simple pleasures.

The real criminal is not the thug who makes these packets of shit. The real criminal is the jackass who buys them. You.

Happy Diwali.

Srini.

BTW: If you can follow Kannada, you can see the entire TV report and panel discussion here.

 

 

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The plate is not plastic. But the rice may be!

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I cooked this spaghetti myself.  80% is real food. The rest? God knows!

 

Is it plastic? Or not? Safe? Not safe? Unnecessary panic? Or really scary? Media hype? Or scientific fact?

Yesterday, I was a panelist on a TV discussion about plastic in our rice and eggs. There were scientists, food experts and two worried consumers who thought they had eaten plastic rice and eggs.

I was silent for the most part of the discussion, listening to everybody else on the panel vehemently argue that plastic rice is a myth, cannot be made, commercially not viable, technically not possible, creation of the media, etc, etc.

There was even a “scientific” demonstration by one of the panelists who took a cup of cooked rice, added a drop of iodine tincture and showed that the rice turned blue and was therefore real. That is, he took a cup of real rice and proved that it was real. Which made me wonder exactly where the “science” in his demonstration was.

It was all about denial.  Denial, denial, denial.

The videos on Youtube were loudly denounced, the two aggrieved consumers on the panel were hushed up, the caller who called in with her complaint about a dubious cabbage was overwhelmed with “science”.

The general attitude of the learned ones on the panel was, “I don’t believe it, therefore it does not exist”.

Where’s the proof, they all cried. We’ve analysed a hundred samples, but all were clean, they claim. Sure. If you take a sample that is clean to start with, you will get a clean result.

The one panelist I found really entertaining was the food expert who kept screaming and shouting about the rampant ‘malnutrition’ that is allegedly happening because people have allegedly stopped eating eggs. Egg farmers will go out of business, thousands of jobs will be lost, the economy will collapse, what will happen to our country, etc, etc.

I wonder if he meant that millions of Brahmins (like myself), Lingayats, Jains, vegans and other non-egg eaters across India are (a) severely malnourished and (b) responsible for India’s economic ruin because we do not eat eggs.

But hey, who am I to argue? I’m no “scientist”, am I?

I’m not surprised at this vehement denial. Some people have their reputations at stake, you see.

This is a classic case of confirmation bias. You can read more about it in this blogpost of mine. What it means is that if one is totally convinced about something, then he will either twist the existing facts to support his conviction or worse, create facts of his own.

This is just what I saw during that panel discussion. Not one of those “experts” was willing to even consider that there may, just may be, some basis to all those reports pouring in from across the country. They were not willing to concede even the remotest possibility. No means no, to them. We, the experts, say there is no plastic, so there is no plastic. That’s all.

I was reminded of that scene in Matrix, in which the little boy says, “There is no spoon”.

My take on this issue: The people deserve to be heard. The people deserve to know.

This is our food, damn it. Our food.

As it is, most of our food is already adulterated with all kinds of shit, and with all kinds of “legally permissible” stuff.

As our vociferous food expert loudly told us, and the rest of India, during the panel discussion, our sugar and salt have about 1.5% “legally permissible” silicates added to them. In other words, your sugar and salt have about 1.5% sand in them. And that’s legal. That’s right. When you add a hefty spoonful of shining white sugar to your child’s milk, you are legally feeding a little amount of sand to her. Cho chweet, no?

Did you know that? No? Then blame it on the same “experts” who tell you your rice is absolutely clean and totally plastic-free.

Don’t believe me. Try it yourself. Dissolve a teaspoon of your sugar in a glass of water.

The question here is not whether there really is plastic in our rice or not. The real question is, what are we not being told about the food we eat? How exactly is officialdom dealing with our food safety?

We saw this during the MSG issue during 2015. Vehement denial, confusing the public with “science”, contradictory statements by “experts”, rules and regulations, brushing aside consumer worries, raving and ranting.

But not one straightforward answer.

Do not underestimate the Indian house-wife. She knows her food. She knows what she’s buying. She’s the most skeptical consumer on earth, because she buys not for herself, but for her family.

When a deeply worried housewife tells you there’s something wrong with her food, you had better take her seriously.

And that is what the “scientists” do not understand.

This is not an effing research project, not an effing scientific experiment. It is not about “science”. And not a political issue, either.

It is about a worried wife and a scared mother. It is about a laborer who lives on daily wages. It is about a terrified farmer who already has enough problems in his life. Whether it is vada-pav on the roadside or a buffet at a 5-star hotel, whether it is a laborer or a corporate magnate – the questions on their minds are exactly the same.

How safe is our food? What are we not being told ?

Vehement denial is not the answer. Throwing “science” in our faces is not the answer. Quoting rules about “legally permissible” crap is not the answer.

People do not need “science”. They need compassion, and understanding. They deserve a proper explanation, not rhetoric. They need to know that someone in the administration is doing his job and someone is keeping us safe.

They need the truth.

Is there plastic in our rice? Are our eggs fake?

I do not know. It may contain plastic, it may not. Is it technically possible to make plastic rice grains and eggs? Yes it is.

But, does your rice really have plastic in it? I just do not know for sure. That I do not know for sure does not scare me. I am not responsible for your food supply.

What really scares me, is that those who are responsible for your food are not entirely sure either – and just do not want to accept that fact.

Think about that, when you order your biryani.

Srini.