The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) has categorically rejected a request from the Food Safety Bureau for inspection of the premises and procedure followed in the preparation of the laddus(prasadam). Permission was denied on the grounds that the ‘potu’ or kitchen is an ‘auspicious place’ where outsiders are not allowed.
This was a result of an RTI application filed by Bengaluru-based T. Narasimha Murthy in July, alleging that 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.
“The cooks who are in preparation of these laddus in large quantity are found wearing no proper dress. They are working in half naked dress and found sweating due to heavy heat at the kitchen. These cooks are not wearing any hand glove, apron and other safety norms..,” Murthy had alleged. The application raised question on adherence of food safety norms by the TTD while making laddus and whether it possess an FSSAI licence.
What is FSSAI?
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India , the FSSAI stipulates that every Food Business Operator has to obtain a registered licence and if they operate in more than one state they require more than one licence.and the preparation has to adhere to hygienic standards for preparation.
The FSSAI Act states that regular reports on the health condition of the cooks should be submitted to the health officer and a fitness certificate should be obtained. Also 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.
Laddus-Not food but holy offering.
In a letter addressed to the Commissioner of Food Safety, Andhra Pradesh, the director of Food Safety Management System (FSMS), Suneeti Toteja, 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 Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
In reply, a letter was sent by the Director of Public Health Labs and Food Administration, Andhra Pradesh, to the RTI activist in which a TTD officer claimed that the laddus cannot be considered as food as they are a holy offering and pilgrims cannot be termed as consumers.
Tirupati laddu has a Geographical Indication tag
The Tirupati temple is the richest Hindu temple in the whole world. No visit to the temple is complete without taking the laddu it offers. Lakhs of laddus are made everyday and are sold out in no time. Even online purchasing is available . Last year it completed 300 years. It is said to have been introduced on August 2nd1715! The Tirupati laddu has also got a patent in the form of geographical indication tag and is thus protected from misuse of name or recipe. The kitchen has been modernised with conveyor belts to deliver the laddus from the kitchen to the counter.
What harm will a public health scrutiny possibly do?