Packaged and enriched

The gujarat government has banned the sale of loose edible oil in the state from January 1, 2006, to check oil adulteration and avoid health hazards. The state civil supply department also imposed a compulsory fortification of the oil with vitamin e to improve the nutritional level in the state.

The state notification required groundnut oil producers to sell their product under one brand name. Proper packaging and printed information regarding date of packaging, weight of the tin or pouch and details about manufacturers were also compulsory. Officials believe this would make manufacturers and dealers more accountable.

S K Nanda, secretary, state civil supply, said the oils also need to be fortified with vitamin e since, "Being a predominantly vegetarian society, the people in the region require extra vitamin supplements.' He clarified that vitamin fortification of cooking oils was not prohibited under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. Surprisingly, there is no scientific research to suggest vitamin e deficiency in Gujarat.

A similar move by the central government in 1998 faced strong opposition as it was seen as harming small manufacturers. The Saurashtra Oil Millers' Association (SOMA) strongly opposed the government's move but has now welcomed the state government's move. Ramesh Dhaduk, small-scale manufacturer, Rajkot, said, "They used to sell loose oil. Now they would get packages from the manufacturers and sell it. Not much of an impact.'

SOMA claims that for every seven tonnes of groundnut oil, 100 gm of vitamin, in fluid form, would be added. The production cost of 20 kg of groundnut oil is estimated to go up by Rs 2. The vitamin, in fluid form, has been specially procured from Germany. 10 oil mills had already started producing the vitamin-enriched oil.

Consumer rights activist Manubhai Shah said, "The government should exempt the oil tins or pouch from sales tax and excise so that the packaging cost does not burden the customers.' Recently, oil millers opposed vitamin fortification of the oil claiming it should be done by packers as they only sold the oil in bulk to the packers.