Continuing its crackdown on stale meat allegedly procured from dumping grounds of the city and its suburbs, Kolkata Police along with Enforcement Branch of the state police and police officers of South 24-Parganas on Thursday busted yet another racket.
Six persons, including the alleged kingpin, Sunny Singh, were arrested from Naoda in Bihar on Thursday for trading rotten carcass meat. According to a senior officer of the city police headquarters at Lalbazar, huge amount of rotten carcass meat weighing about 20 tons was seized from a cold storage near Rajabazar.
The meat, claimed the officer, was reportedly procured from dead animals which were dumped in the vat at Rajabazar. After being processed, the meat was supplied to various hotels and restaurants.
Thursday’s breakthrough came on the heels of arrest of three people in connection with alleged trade of carcass meat from Budge Budge. Last Friday’s arrests brought to the fore for the first time the booming racket surrounding carcass meat that is active in the city and its suburbs.
The KMC has gone on war footing to collect meat samples from food vendors and suppliers in the city to send them for tests in their laboratories to find out whether the meat samples are rotten or contain any sort of bacteria that could cause harm on ingestion.
However, the civic body does not have adequate infrastructure to ascertain the source of the meat. It could be from any animal, a civic body health official said. The food analysts of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) on Thursday conducted meeting with the state forensic director to get the collected meat samples examined in their laboratories.
The move is expected to ascertain the source of the collected meat samples which are allegedly of dead animal carcasses picked up from a dumping ground in Budge Budge and supplied to the city markets.
Mr Atin Ghosh, member mayor-in-council (MMIC), health said, “We have been collecting samples for the last few days after the incident came to light. Several meat samples have been picked up from vendors and suppliers. Thursday, we received information that the Budge Budge and Kolkata police after interrogating the arrested suspects have raided a cold storage in Raja Bazar from where they collected around 20 tons of meat. However, to ascertain the source of the meat, to which animal it belongs to, it will be sent to the state forensics lab. The samples collected by us would also undergo forensic tests. Only such tests can determine the nature of the meat and the civic body labs does not have the required infrastructure to conduct such tests. A meeting has been conducted on Thursday between our food analysts and the director of the state forensics.”
Further speaking on the matter, Mr Ghosh said: “Presently, the Kolkata Police have taken the matter in their hands. We are, however, in contact with them and are extending all cooperation. Apart from this, we are collecting meat samples borough-wise. We are doing it with whatever infrastructure that we have at present. The state finance department has recently sanctioned Rs 5 crore to us for modernising our infrastructure including our laboratories. We need equipment to conduct necessary examinations from our side.”
“We have also made leaflets on food safety and are distributing it among the food vendors and suppliers, making them aware of the dos and dont’s,” added Mr Ghosh. The MMIC further added that the civic body is further waiting for some more aid from the state government using which it could form teams in all 16 boroughs of the civic body.
There are also several vacancies for food officers that need to be filled up urgently. “We intend to recruit more 250 food officers for which the state health recruitment board has begun the interview process. This will help in strengthening the vigilance and conducting regular food safety drives in the city,” said Mr Ghosh.
Talking on what action could be initiated against perpetrators by the civic body on violation of food safety norms, an official said: “There can be two types of situation ~ misbranding and selling commodities that could pose danger to human life. In terms of misbranding of food packages, which includes abnormal differences between expiry and manufacture date, it will be treated as a criminal case. Our adjudicating officer will handle such case which could draw a hefty fine. In case of the latter one, there are several clauses for punishing the offender.”