RTI application turns spotlight on Tirupati laddus

The RTI applicant had alleged that the laddus are made in an unhygienic manner. 

BENGALURU: The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which makes the famed ‘Tirupati Laddus’ that are considered as prasadam by devotees, also has to obtain a food safety licence like any other Food Business Operator (FBO).

In a letter addressed to the Commissioner of Food Safety, Andhra Pradesh, Suneeti Toteja, director, Food Safety Management System (FSMS), stated that the ‘laddu’ is food as per definition of food under the Food Safety Standards Act of India, 2006. Also, TTD is an FBO and has to adhere to provisions of the FSSAI.

“The applicability of the Act is not affected whether the food is purchased or distributed free of cost. TTD therefore has to obtain a licence and fulfil all responsibilities of an FBO as stipulated in Section 23 of the FSS Act,” the letter said. 

This was pursuant to a RTI application filed by Bengaluru-based T. Narasimhamurthy on adherence of food safety norms by the TTD while making the laddus and whether it possess an FSSAI licence.

Mr. Narasimhamurthy had filed a complaint with FSSAI in July alleging that the laddus were made in an unhygienic manner. “The deficiencies are noticed at every stage, including manufacture, storage, distribution and sale. Materials such as bolts, nuts, key chains and gutka covers have been found in the laddus,” he alleged.

According to Mr. Narasimhamurthy, the FSSAI Act states that only those with clean clothes and devoid of infections shall be involved in the manufacture and packing of food items. “Regular reports on the health condition of the cooks should be submitted to the health officer and a fitness certificate should be obtained,” he said, adding that a bill should be provided upon purchase of the product and the packing should carry details about the ingredients and date of manufacture and expiry.

Subsequent to the application, the Joint Food Controller and other officers, including the food inspector, contacted the Joint Executive Officer of TTD to inspect the ‘potu’ (kitchen) where the laddus are prepared. However, permission was denied on the grounds that the ‘potu’ is an ‘auspicious place’ where outsiders are not allowed.

Besides, according to a letter sent by the Director of Public Health Labs and Food Administration, Andhra Pradesh, to the RTI activist, the TTD officer claimed that the laddus cannot be considered as food as they are a holy offering and pilgrims cannot be termed as consumers. “After discussion with the Executive Officer of TTD, a reply will be submitted regarding inspection of the premises and obtaining FSSAI licence,” the letter said. Necessary action will be taken after the Commissioner of Food Safety issues orders.

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