How safe is your Diwali mithai?
If you head to the mithai shop and the seller insists on you buying the ‘special barfi’ that is in stock ‘only during Diwali‘, beware. Chances are, there’s nothing ‘special’ about the barfi. In fact, it might contain substandard and adulterous substances that are sure to hamper your celebrations.
The Khoya may be impure
To meet the high demand during the festive season, many city-based sweet shops get khoya and other ingredients from places like Beed, Osmanabad and Gujarat as well. The season also prompts vendors to go on an adulteration spree or to use substandard khoya in order to make more profit. "Pune is one of the most affected cities with adulterated or low quality ingredients being used to make mithai, which is then named ‘Special Barfi’, to attract buyers and escape the law. Made up of milk powder, vegetable oil and sugar, this variant is cheaper than those sweets that are made from khoya. Lack of care during transportation makes the khoya unsafe for consumption," informs Shivaji Desai, Joint Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration (Food).
The not-so-special barfi
"This special barfi costs around Rs 100-150 per kg while khoya costs Rs 250 per kg; the low cost prompts many sellers to use the former," added Desai. Another thing to cautious is aluminium adulteration. The mithai is laced with varaka (silver foil) which catches everyone’s attention. But at times, all that shines is not silver; it might be aluminium as well. Also, adding more colour than the permissible limit, or using harmful colours, poses a health hazard.
Crackdown by FDA
Recently, the FDA seized readymade mithai worth thousands, for excess and non-permissible use of colour. "Edible colours are listed in the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, but many sweet shops violate guidelines," said Desai.
Further, teams lead by 26 food safety officers and inspectors will be carrying surprise checks across sweet shops before the festival and suspected food items will be sent for testing. If, prima facie, the mithai is found unsuitable for consumption, it will be seized. The FDA is also holding a series of meetings with khoya distributors and sweet shop owners about proper handling of the food items, awareness about adulteration and safe transportation.
The best bet
Despite all this, one needn’t be disheartened. Mithai is a must during Diwali and the city’s reputed sellers are your best bet to get fresh, unadulterated sweets, owing to their use of traditional preparation methods. Shrikrishna Chitale, from a popular sweet shop chain, said, "We make khoya at our plant which gives surety of safe food throughout the year."
Sidharth Gadve, from another chain, reiterated the same and added, "The FDA permits use of some synthetic colours with certain standards, but we stick to using natural colours as a safety measure."