Delhi has no facility to test oxytocin in fruits

In a shocking admission, the Delhi government told the Delhi high court today that it does not have facilities to test the presence of oxytocin, a possibly carcinogenic chemical, used by unscrupulous traders to make fruits and vegetables appear fresh.

The government lawyer told the Delhi high court that the Prevention of Food Adulteration Lab did not have testing facilities for oxytocin. The court told the government to file a fresh affidavit by 19 January  after taking the necessary corrective steps.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Salek Chand Jain, a social worker, who sought directions from the court, asking the Delhi government to prevent the sale of artificially coloured vegetables and fruits.

The use of such chemicals in eatables causes cancer, the petition said. Despite the enactment of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act in 2000, the Delhi government was not taking action against the traders, he said.

The government claimed that its food inspectors were carrying out the necessary tests to check food adulteration, but it said there was a shortage of storage space.

Dinesh Trivedi, the minister of state for health and family welfare, had in August written to the health ministry, urging it to take action against the indiscriminate use of oxytocin by farmers.

The government has directed the Drug Controller General of India and state drug controllers to regulate and monitor the manufacture and distribution of oxytocin.

A recent study by the Punjab Agricultural University revealed that oxytocin had no effect on crop yield and the chemical does not influence the quality of a fruit.