GUWAHATI, Jan 13 � Paneer, one of the most favourite items in a vegetarian dish and highly sought after on all festive occasions, whether Bihu or Puja, should now be approached with caution before indulging in gastronomic delights. The State Public Health Laboratory has found the presence of gum in this delicacy which is an act of adulteration as per the provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act.
Adulteration of food has always been an issue of concern and what has made matters worse is that despite the legal provisions to prevent adulteration, a section of traders have gone ahead with their unscrupulous activities flouting all the norms of the PFA Act.
Lately in Assam, the State Public Health Laboratory has detected the presence of adulterants not only in paneer, but also in other milk-based products including curd.
As per the laws, any substance foreign to milk in milk-based products is an act of adulteration and according to an official of the laboratory, in the last few years, markets in the State have been flooded with paneer containing gum and very-low-on-fat content.
In the last year itself, the State Public Health Laboratory analysed around 50 paneer samples, 500 milk and 200 curd samples from across the State and according to the official, 50 percent of the samples was found adulterated. It is worth mentioning here that out of the total of 12,212 samples of different food items collected from across the State in last decade, 970 were found adulterated under the PFA Act, the percentage of adulteration being 7.94 in Assam.
�Apart from the concentration of gum, we have found low fat percentage in the paneer,� said the official, informing that as per the norms, the fat percentage in paneer on dry weight basis should be 50.
The official further said that such low-quality paneer was sizeably present in the Guwahati market compared to other towns in the State. Guwahati being the gateway, adulterated items easily makes their way to the market here. That Guwahati is being targeted by the unscrupulous traders can be gauged from the fact that a total of 29 cases of adulteration here were detected by five food inspectors, Hiren Kalita, Sunil Mishra, Sameeran Baruah, Bhabesh Bhuyan and Munindra Bhuyan in the year 2010. These cases included paneer and curd adulteration as well. Low-quality paneer in Guwahati is available at Rs 140 to Rs 170 per kg.
With the Assamese community getting ready for the Magh Bihu which is all about community feasting, the common consumer needs to be on guard against adulterated items that may spoil the feast menu. So beware of buying paneer at a price less than Rs 250 and above per kg. Because according to experts, 7 to 8 litres of milk is needed to prepare one kg of paneer and milk cost Rs 30 per litre in the market at present.
The laboratory analysis also points out to the concentration of thickening agents and non-permitted colours in curd, another must-have item on the traditional Bihu menu.