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Protecting Consumers

FDA, legal metrology must carry out relentless raids to enforce standards

The officials of the department of legal metrology have confiscated goods worth over Rs 10 lakh in several raids conducted in various parts of the state. The commodities were seized as they did not have the mandatory declarations or details required under the Legal Metrology Act and the Goa Legal Metrology Rules. The department has been conducting raids almost every month but action by it does not seem to have deterred the errant businessmen who include vegetable vendors, meat sellers, liquor packaging units, fish vendors and even jewellers. During occasional raids a number of vegetable vendors, meat and fish sellers are booked for using weighing machines which were not verified and approved by the department as required under law but still the cheating by manipulating weights and standards goes on. The ultimate losers are customers who do not have the inclination to question businessmen on their standards and weights and measures. Even if they have the intention they do not have the means or skill to prove the vendor wrong. It is only the legal metrology department that can protect consumers from cheating by unscrupulous businessmen. Because a number of businessmen work on the nefarious principle that a small quantity cheated out of the measures for every customer would add up to quite substantial for a number of customers. That illegal earning would be above the price that the businessman takes from consumers, which can also be often high if there is a shortage of supply.

It is not just the legal metrology department but also agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that have to work far more sincerely and intensively and responsibily to protect consumers from cheating and manipulation and substandard and toxic commodities. The legal metrology department books cases for absence of information about the name of packer, manufacturer or importer, the generic name, the month and year of manufacture or pre-packaging or importing, maximum retail price and customer care on food items. The FDA has to eliminate goods that could pose serious health risks to those who consume them. There was a time when FDA would regularly conduct raids on sellers of food items during the festive seasons. Today, the FDA has confined itself to issuing licences and virtually abdicated its responsibility of  enforcement of food safety standards. We are seeing it in the case of fish.

According to the legal metrology rules, every working standard balance should be verified at least once within a period of twelve months and shall be adjusted, if necessary, to make it correct within the limits of sensitivity and other metrological qualities. It is not known whether all those who use weighing machines abide by the rules. It is heartening to note that legal metrology has widened the scope of its functioning and even raided jewellers for using unverified weighing scales.

It is pertinent to note that any discrepancy in weighing gold could cost the customer a good amount of money. The department has also booked a distillery in Zuarinagar for packing lesser amount of liquor in 750ml bottles. There is a possibility of such violations in other fields too.

As scores of cases are booked regularly there is a need to create awareness among the public on the need to be vigilant. Consumers should check whether the goods being sold by the vendors  are of trusted origin and whether the weights and measures used are correct. The legal metrology department should make it compulsory for every shop to display a copy of the last calibration of the weighing machines being used by them, so that customers know whether the machines were giving proper readings or not. However, consumers are soft targets to unscrupulous vendors as they do not normally like to annoy the vendors with questioning on the weights and measures and other standards used by them. Unfortunately, in Goa, the different agencies like legal metrology, health department and  the FDA do not treat consumers as supreme. The agencies must learn to respect the rights of consumers.

Ganesh Chaturthi is coming on. It is time for them to raid and catch unscrupulous vendors who would use substandard substances and manipulate their measures to maximise their earnings.

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