The Madras High Court has taken up cudgles against the officials who have been responsible for laxity in random quality checks of the TASMAC shops. This came after various media sources reported how the Tamil Nadu-owned government liquor shops were selling substandard liquor and alcoholic beverages.
V Sriraman and his colleague advocate Vijay moved a PIL in high court and sought the court to direct the authorities concerned to prevent sale of the substandard liquor in TASMAC outlets and take action against officials responsible for the sale. The petitioners also demanded that these outlets be stopped from selling liquor and direct food safety officials to test random samples collected from the outlets.
A report by the Times of India further reported that the petitioners suffered vomiting and severe diarrhoea after they consumed two brands of white rum bought from a TASMAC shop in Koyambedu.
On March 23, a complaint was lodged with the food safety department and samples of Ancient Cask Premium XXX Rum were sent to laboratory for analysis. Subsequently, on June 20, the petitioner received a letter from the lab, stating that the beverages were of substandard quality.
Speaking to the Times of India, the petitioner said, "To counter check, we sent the sample of Ancient Cask Premium XXX Rum and Bacardi Limon Rum to Chennai Mettex lab, in Guindy , an NABL-accredited laboratory . The report revealed that the sample of Ancient Cask contained 815 counts of acid which should not exceed 200 as per IS 3811-2005 (requirement for white rum). Similarly , report of Bacardi rum revealed that residue on evaporation % (mv) resulted in 6.98% which should not exceed 1.0 & total acids resulted to 550 which shouldn't exceed 200."
Earlier, in an article by the Times of India, titled, Gulpit! No quality check at Tasmac shops for 14 years, it was stated that one of the food safety officials said that alcohol did not come under the purview of the department and therefore random checks cannot be conducted unlike other products since there were legal issues over whether alcoholic beverages fall under the category of food.
However, on the contrary, the Food Safety and Standards Authority is the licensing body for distilleries. The PIL that has been filed in the high court is likely to be taken up for hearing on Friday.
FSSAI has already framed safety standards for alcohol
The statement of the food authority stands in contradiction to an earlier move by the FSSAI. Earlier in 2016, according to a report by the Economic Times, the food safety regulator FSSAI had approved the standards of alcoholic drinks like Whiskey and beer and finalised a list of additives that should be used for making these products. In fact, the move was considered to be the first of its kind for all major alcoholic drinks in the country for which standards and the additives list have been finalised.
The then FSSAI CEO Pawan Agarwal had said that the standards were in alignment with the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) standards. Having said that, it remains to be seen how the food authorities justify the contradiction in their statements.