28,March, 2016


The country’s top food regulator is finalising a move to end the widely used practice of manufacturing silver leaf — popularly called ‘chandi ka vark’ — by hammering thin sheets of silver in middle of booklets made of intestines of bull/ox.

The Food and Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has proposed a ban on usage of animal parts at any stage of manufacture of the ‘chandi ka vark’, used on paan, sweets and fruits etc. ‘Vark’ is also used in syrups like in Kesar (saffron) syrup and in some Ayurvedic medicines.

The FSSAI has also proposed the norms regarding thickness, weight and purity of the silver leaf. And manufacturers will have to adhere to the labeling standards like any other food products.

“To regulate the industry which has so far been dominated by the unorganised sector, the food regulator has made it clear that under the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011, relating to other food and ingredients, ‘no material of animal origin shall be used at any stage of manufacture of the silver leaf,” said sources in the Authority.

The regulation also proposes that “silver leaf shall be in the form of sheet of uniform thickness, free from creases and folds and that its weight should be upto 2.8 gm/Sq meter while the silver content shall be of minimum 999/1000 purity.

The regulator has already received suggestions from the stakeholders and it will soon finalise the guidelines, said the sources.

When enforced, the standards would do away with the widely used method of preparing the silver leaves, wherein the intestines of cattle/ox, obtained from slaughterhouses, are used for making it. “It is unhygienic too,” sources said.

“The ‘chandi ka vark’ is made by hammering thin sheets of silver in middle of booklets made of a bull’s intestines. After slaughtering a bull, its intestines are removed immediately and sold to the manufacturers of foils.

“The foil manufacturer removes blood and stool from the intestines, and cuts them into pieces. Then he puts one piece of intestine over another, making a booklet out of it. At his home, or in the factory, he puts one silver (or gold) sheet in-between each such booklet and hammers it hard until those metal sheets turn into thin wafers,” explained a manufacturer, on condition of anonymity.

“Old intestines are of no use. Even a one-day-old intestine cannot be used as it stiffens within a few hours,” he said even as he pointed out that sometimes, because of the hammering, some tissues of the intestine mix with the foils.

However, now with growing awareness and a sizable market of vegetarians, some players in the industry have already started claiming of providing ‘100 per cent vegetarian’ silver leaves which are “hygienically” produced.

Terming the FSSAI initiative as a progressive and long-needed one, Shubh Choukesy, Director of Shree Jaannathiji Sterling Products Pvt Ltd, which is in ‘chandi ka vark’ business, claimed that they adopt a purely vegetarian process with the help of fully automatic and computerised machines with new technology.

“Instead of intestines, we use hygienic polyster. Same technology is applied for making gold leaves which is also used for decorating food items like cakes. We adhere good manufacturing practices as those complied in the EU.”

He said the new proposed standards will curb adulteration as some unscrupulous players are selling health hazardous aluminum leaves too in the name of silver foil.

Categories: NEWS
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