Citizens' Issues
Bitter truth: This Diwali, stick to homemade sweets

Experts say that ‘mithai’ makers often use adulterated material; call for a strong & effective monitoring agency to monitor quality of sweetmeats

It’s Diwali time! Celebration with family & friends with sweets is the most common ritual for this festival across the country. But keep an eye on the mithai that you might buy from your local shop.

Experts say that the demand for sweetmeats rises during the festive season, giving shop-owners ample reason to manufacture them by compromising on the quality of these products. There is blatant usage of adulterated material and colours beyond the permissible limit.

Recently, officials from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), Maharashtra, raided shops to crack down on adulterated and spurious material such as mawa (made out of condensed milk) commonly used in sweets. Around 1,052kg of spurious mawa was confiscated from Dadar, central Mumbai.

Such raids during festival time are common. But these raids fail to act as a deterrent as consumers are continued to be sold adulterated material. Experts say that unless there is a strong agency monitoring these sweet-shop owners, people will continue to be fooled.

AR Shenoy, a Mumbai-based consumer activist, who also has 40 years of hands-on experience in chemical testing, told Moneylife: “There is no testing laboratory for these shops. The entire business is unorganised and hence there is no quality control on the goods coming in and going out. Since there is high demand for sweets during the festive season, manufacturers often use adulterated materials. We need a strong and impartial monitoring agency.”

V Sudershan Rao, a food safety expert at the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, said, “It is very difficult for consumers to detect if the sweets are adulterated. We conduct a simple test using iodine to check the adulteration level, but as a consumer, one cannot really go from shop to shop and check these products. There is a need for a monitoring agency for these sweet shops at the local level.”

FDA officials have appealed to people to buy sweets from licensed shops and importantly check the “best-before” usage tag on them.

However, Mr Shenoy added, “Even for those sweets brought from established and recognised shops, one cannot guarantee if they are pure or adulterated.” Another common problem is that these sweetmeats are often coloured to make them look attractive to buyers. However, these colours are often used beyond the permissible limit. According to the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011, the permissible limit for synthetic food colour is 100 milligrams per kilogram.

“As an activist, I am totally against the usage of these synthetic colours. If used beyond the permitted limit, these could be harmful. Instead, one should use natural colours such as turmeric, kesar etc,” explained Mr Shenoy.

Mr Rao added, “We generally advice people to eat homemade sweets. Or at least buy sweets from the most reliable source.”

So before you buy your quota of sweetmeats for this Diwali, keep this bitter truth in mind.

User

COMMENTS

Sachin Purohit

5 years ago

No use even making them at home. You still need the basic ingredients. Many of the raids have been on makers of adulterated mawa, ghee, etc. You need sugar, ghee, milk to make any sweets at home, too. The only way is to buy a cow or two and have a sugar-cane farm of your own! It is good that at least there have been so many raids against these killers. But I don't know what punishment if any they will eventually get. To me, there can be no bigger crime than adulteration of food. These guys should be treated like murderers because they are selling poison.

malq

5 years ago

The even bigger issue is the rampant usage of assorted chemicals as sugar substitutes or as they are being locally re-named "super glucose". They tend to leave a bitter after-taste and for many of us, the only way to recall what real sugar based sweets taste like is to make them at home, and simply taste the difference.

Good luck to all of us.

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