West Bengal got its second only food testing laboratory when it was inaugurated in Siliguri on Monday. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the facility, the first one for north Bengal, through the ‘remote control’ from Pailan in South 24 Paragans district.

The Regional Food Testing Laboratory under the health and family welfare department will test samples of different types of food items including pulses, wheat, flour, rice, milk and milk products, the pH level of water, adulteration etc.

Health officials said the region felt the need for such a laboratory for the past several years, as food samples were sent to the West Bengal Public Health Laboratory in Kolkata for tests, whenever required, while the reports often used to take time to reach Siliguri.

“We used to send around 50 food items quarterly to the laboratory in Kolkata and getting back the test reports took a good amount of time,” said a health official.

Chairman of the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, Siliguri District Hospital, North Bengal Dental College and Hospital patient welfare committees, Dr Rudranath Bhattacharya, said the initiative would help north Bengal in the long run.

“Such a facility was the need of the hour in north Bengal. The state government has made it possible,” he said. Darjeeling district chief medical officer of health Dr Pralay Acharya said it was an important development for north Bengal.

The laboratory, which became functional from on Monday itself, is equipped with high-end machies and technology like muffle furnace, hot air oven, and the Kjeldahl apparatus.

Health officials said Rs 1,00,05,282 crore was spent to ready the infrastructure. The laboratory which is headed by the deputy chief medical officer of health, Dr Tulsi Pramanik, has a food analyst, who will also check the final test reports, a junior scientific officer, one senior scientific analyst, one junior scientific assistant and one lab assistant.

Recruitments in five more technical posts would be made later, it is learnt. Apart from the tests, administrative officials there are authorised to conduct drives to check food items.

While the facility has been set up in a building owned by the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority at Mallaguri, officials said they plan to shift the same permanently to an area near the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital later.