Twenty-seven fourth grade students of Shanti Shramik Higher Secondary School at Chyasal, Lalitpur, had to be hospitalised the day before yesterday as they were taken ill after taking chocolates. Later, they went home after treatment at Patan Hospital. The Metropolitan Police Range, Lalitpur, is probing the case suspecting criminal intent. The test results from a laboratory would help confirm whether the case is one of food poisoning or of mere indigestion.
News reports of people falling sick or succumbing to the indigestion caused by unhealthy food products dot the newspaper pages from time to time, both in Nepal as well as in South Asian countries. The high frequency of these occurrences is due to the poor state of food inspection and quality compliance. This has given profit-by-any-means traders an opportunity to sell potentially dangerous foodstuffs to the unwary or ignorant consumers. Inadequate laws and lax implementation have given rise to the risks of adulteration, contamination, indiscriminate use of harmful sweeteners, flavouring and colouring agents as well as stale food products which unusually flood the local markets. The absence of a vigorous consumer movement has also encouraged unscrupulous manufacturers and retailers. It is the duty of the government to ensure that substandard products, particularly foods, are not sold and that those who dare are suitably punished. No compromise can be made when it comes to the issue of public health safety and maintenance of food quality.