New Delhi, June 9th 2015: Welcoming the swift action by governments with regard to the food safety scare posed by presence of toxins in various processed food brands including Nestle's Maggi noodles, "India For Safe Food" (IFSF: pointed out that it is unfortunate that issues of food safety are not usually taken seriously enough by governments as well as the public. IFSF points out that the issues that such food scares raise are also about informed choices being left (or not left) with consumers, whether regulation can be relied upon, and about how far have we moved away from natural foods.

IFSF is a nationwide awareness generation platform on issues of food safety, and is run by ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture). IFSF seeks to ensure safe, nutritious and diverse foods for all, to make food safe and nourishing, and also to ensure food production that makes our soil fertile, restores our environment and secures farmers' dignified and viable livelihoods.

"This latest incident shows once again that our regulatory systems are not geared to ensure food safety for Indians. This is not the first time that issues of residues, harmful additives as well as hazardous technologies used in food production and processing have come to light. Each time such a report breaks, further testing also reveals that the problem is not isolated or small, but widespread, which only shows that regulatory failures are also widespread. If this is the case with toxins like lead, it is a matter of great concern to imagine how our regulators will protect us from living technologies like Genetic Engineering in our food and farming systems", said Rachna Arora, one of the Coordinators of IFSF. She also added that more Govt labs should be set up to periodically test for all these harmful ingredients as well as other residues like pesticides, and for testing the presence of GM, and data published periodically and shared in the public domain. Governments should also ensure that all ingredients are correctly mentioned on the label and true to the letter. There is also a need to create larger awareness on food safety matters.

Sridhar Radhakrishnan of Thanal, Trivandrum said, "Repeated instances of unsafe foods - whether it is pesticides in soft drinks or bottled water, or whether it is a mid-day meal poisoning tragedy in Bihar, or whether it is unsafe lead/glutamate in processed foods - the finger points mostly to unclean production systems in our farms where hazardous materials are getting added to our foods - heavy metals, pesticides etc. While this is already bad, irreversible living technologies like GMOs are now being pushed into our farming and foods. This is simply unacceptable, especially given that solutions for safe food production do exist. We cannot allow the very food that we need for our survival and health to be made toxic". There should also be norms about only safe and degradable packaging to be used, he added.

Ananthasayanan, who leads the Safe Food Alliance in Tamil Nadu added, "there are more than 10000 chemicals used in the trillion dollar food-chemicals industry and by the processed food industry, of which many are linked to various diseases and ill-effects that include nervous system damage, thyroid problems, gastrointestinal discomfort, kidney diseases to cancer. Strict norms and regulation are certainly needed to ensure that our food does not become unsafe. In the West, there is much debate on flavor enhancers - the more we move away from natural foods, the more we seem to end up resorting to the use of such toxic flavor enhancers when natural tastes are lost due to unnatural production systems. The answer lies in sticking to natural foods", Ananthoo pointed out.

IFSF urges citizens to be more conscious of safe, nutritious and healthy foods and come forward to consume only such foods, thereby also supporting producers and traders who are investing on safe alternatives. With consumer rejection, toxic food suppliers would be forced to move away from the market, it said in a press statement. IFSF therefore urges people ensure there is more fresh vegetables and fruits on their plates and also that they are without chemicals/residues. Avoid anything with MSG, HFCS (High fructose corn syrup), BHT, artificial colors, preservatives and unknown numbers as well as ensure the ingredients are read and understood - public has to be alert and aware and seek safe, poison-free, real food. Avoid pesticide-laden and GM-containing food (ones with canola, soybean and cotton seed oil, for instance; imported foods with corn as an ingredient, as another example). Eating seasonal, natural foods is a good way to avoid the chemical additives in the post-production stage, and growing/eating organic is a good way to avoid toxins used in the production process.

IFSF also demands that the Agriculture Ministry, Environment Ministry, Water Resources Ministry, Health Ministry and other related ministries, as well as state governments work in coordination with each other to address the issue not as an end-of-the-pipeline regulatory activity alone, but to set up resource-conserving, pollution-free natural food production systems.

For more information:
Rachna Arora: 98-117-46647
Ananthoo (Ananthasayanan): 94-441-66779
Sridhar Radhakrishnan: 99-953-58205;