Over a good few days or so Calcutta is abuzz with the strange mystery of fake plastic eggs!
A woman in Calcutta brought home more than a dozen eggs from a local haberdashery and the moment she broke it open on to the pan to fry, it emitted a pungent, “plastic like smell”. She later said that it even spread out with a “plastic-like quality” across her skillet with the albumen seemingly looking like burnt plastic. In hind sight she reminisced that it did have a suspicious plastic-like shell as well.
To further her suspicion she lit the egg itself on fire and the ‘egg’ promptly caught on flames. Thus alerted, mother that she is, specially to warn her locality of such misdemeanour, she wasted no time in lodging a complaint with the civic body in her jurisdiction and the consumer affairs department.
Working on that complaint the involved shopkeeper was arrested by Kolkata Police’s Enforcement Branch against charges of fraud and criminal conspiracy. The city Municipal Corporation also sprung into quick action declaring an investigation in order.
It has created quite a stir. More so, because they were touted to be from Andhra Pradesh which contributes above 80 per cent to the state’s egg demands.
Apart from the said shopkeeper, the wholesaler from whom he procured those batches of eggs were was also raided. A crate of eggs from his shop was taken away for inspection. It was learnt that the shopkeeper had bought inventory worth 1.15 lakh INR from him. The enforcement branch also plans to collect at least three more crates of similar samples from other shops from the same market.
The Mayor, none the less sooner, ordered an enquiry into this matter, saying that though he was aware about plastic eggs, he had never expected actually seeing one for real. The mayoral council member in charge of health cautioned that adulteration of food, as per Food Safety and Standards Act, is a punishable offence adding that if the confiscated item was found to be life-threatening, then the offenders may even face life imprisonment, conjointly with a hefty fine levied upon them.
He also led a team comprising the civic body to seize stealthily upon major markets in the city to pick up similar such samples of artificial eggs. By Saturday 96,000 egg samples made its way to the laboratory. In accordance with the Mayor’s decree, poultry firms were also looked into.
That, that the steps taken are not mere tokenism, was clear when just the other day the city municipal corporation sanctioned 1 lakh INR towards procurement of protein-analysis kit to ascertain sanguinity of eggs. By doing so, the municipal corporation can equip itself with this particular facility that was so far was self-admittedly lacking and won’t have to depend on any third party for tests thereby will curtailing the result receipt time.
The sanction was backed up by a promise from mayoral council member in charge of health that there will be a system of instituting regular surprise checks by collecting samples. His control room will be open to accepting complaints in case if any one harbours a doubt about the genuineness of the eggs that is being consumed. An official on the civic body said ten eggs from the complainant’s stock was sent to animal resources development department to seek out the reason behind the foul odour. The official rightfully said that the complain needs to be scientifically corroborated to be taken more seriously. The results are expected within a week’s period.
Today the WB CM got on it and announced that she had spoken to Bengal poultry foundation, who has been vested with the responsibility of labelling eggs produced in Bengal. Trying to allay fears she said that Bengal produces 80 lakh eggs which should be sufficient for the state’s needs. She stressed that there’s nothing wrong with Bengal eggs. One needs to just check that. She also tossed rhetoric – whether plastic eggs are cheaper than real ones. Mentioning that she was told by the poultry foundation it’s quite the contrary and questioned the futility of such an exercise. Broaching on a reformation drive incidental on the poultries across the state, she projected about plans to set up poultries for ducks like that for hens.
Meanwhile the arrested shopkeeper produced in front of the court defended himself by saying the said eggs were that of ducks and if refrigerated for a day they tend to go plastic. The city municipal corporation has been asked to look into his claim too. Interrogating the detainee has led to at least three big egg kingpins, one of whom coincidentally or otherwise has links with the opposition and he was interrogated this Saturday.
Ominous sounding yet fake eggs apparently can be concocted from a backyard chemistry set. Sodium Alginate, a brown algae extract, makes viscose albumen. A slightly more dangerous chemical –Mercury and Benzoic Acid is used for yolk. A mix of resin and pigments settles the shape thereafter the outer shell can be constructed from a paraffin wax, gypsum powder and calcium carbonate amalgam. These chemicals which can damage liver can even be carcinogenic.
Once out the saga seems to continue – the latest discovery yesterday spreading to two districts of WB, both of whose district administration have sent some samples for lab tests. One of district complainant insinuated that some plastic eggs have even made its way to the Anganwadi centres meant to be distributed as mid-day meals.