Bhubaneswar: Despair and gloom prevails in the lives of Bidyadhar Jena and his wife of Kolipadi village in Keonjhar. Their one-year-old daughter Suchitra choked to death on Monday after eating a free toy that was found in a chips packet. After her death, the parents have found themselves at the centre of the blame-game. While no one is taking responsibility for the girl’s death, many have pointed fingers at the parents for letting their one-year-old eat chips without any supervision.
However, it is wrong to assume that the same incident would not have occurred with a six-year-old. Children, generally absent-minded and still in learning stage, are prone to making such mistakes. Concerned parents said that many snack packets are using such marketing tactics to lure children and increase sales. Free toys and games attract small kids following which they make a fuss to consume the unhealthy eateries. “The toys are miniscule and can be easily swallowed by an unaware child,” said a parent.
Though the toys are sealed in a separate wrapper and then inserted into the packets, danger still looms large. Sometimes the wrappers are torn resulting in the toy getting mixed with the snack and then it can be easily mistaken for a chip. While the bigger brands have stopped such promotional techniques, many local brands still continue the practice. These smaller brands even insert the toy without any warning. Some companies also go the extent of luring kids with coins in food packets.
How safe are such practices? Where do these brands obtain permission from? Who monitors these activities? Do the brands have no moral responsibility towards their customers? Is it high time for a ban on such methods?
These questions have plagued the minds of every responsible citizen soon after the Keonjhar incident came forth. This is not an isolated case. In 2017, a four-year-old boy died after mistakenly swallowing a rubber toy that was inside a chips packet at Eluru town in Andhra Pradesh. In the same year, a Mumbai boy also died after he accidentally choked on a toy that came free in a snack packet. Earlier this year, a TV actor’s two-year old daughter also met with a similar fate.
With so many innocent lives already lost, will the Government finally intervene to find a solution to this menace?