The Indian government has drawn up a plan to set up an extra 40 food and drug testing labs and upgrade the existing ones at a cost of more than 3.5bn rupees (US$80m), the Times of India reports.

“These laboratories would be as modern as any other testing lab in a developed European country and would be able to conduct tests for any unwanted matter that could harm the consumer,” said a senior official in the health ministry.

The laboratories would also be able to detect genetically modified food, contaminants and newer strains of pathogens in food entering Indian markets. “The laboratories will be able to detect all internationally banned residues, contaminants and chemicals, forcing multinational companies and Indian manufacturers to follow global standards in India as well,” the official added.

Though India now has stringent food and drug control laws in place, the number of laboratories which can detect violations are very few. Of the 19 drug testing laboratories, only seven are equipped to test all varieties of drugs. As for testing edible items, there are an equal number of labs, but the health ministry officials admit that none of them is capable of detecting banned contaminants as per international standards.