Festival season has started and Diwali is around the corner. With onset of Diwali business at sweet shops reaches it peaks. Exchanging and consuming sweets is a major tradition during Diwali. With such heavy demand during the festival season, adulterated sweets are sold in bulk in the market. In a recent incident in Kasumpti in Shimla the Municipal Corporation seized 1.5 quintal of sweets which were found adulterated.
There is no proper checks for keeping tab on the quality of sweets being sold in Himachal Pradesh. As reported in the media, their is just one food inspector in Shimla who is responsible for collecting the samples. The report of these samples comes after a month and by the time entire adulterated sweets are already consumed. There is no fool proof system of collecting and sending these samples to the only testing laboratory at Kandaghat in the state. By the time a sample reaches the lab for testing it is already unfit for human consumption. Already shops from where the samples had failed in the past are still doing brisk business as the cases keep dragging in courts.
These sweets are prepared in bulk and months in advance to be sold around Diwali. Often to meet the demand, traders buy sweets from outside sweetmeat shops. Jullandher in Punjab, Ambala, Karnal and Panipat in Haryana are major hubs for procuring these sweets. Being a disorganised industry there are no quality checks.
To cope up with the demand, oil and khoya used in preparing these sweets is highly adulterated. Poisonous aregemone mexicana and deadly butter yellow dye is added to the oil. Refined palm stearin, a non-edible by-product of crude palm oil, is used as an adulterant in Vanaspati. Stearin is largely used to manufacture soaps. Khoya is prepared by mashing blotting paper and toilet paper in milk. Synthetic khoya is prepared by adding urea.
Milkfed, a state government undertaking, engaged in dairy products used to sell sweets during Diwali till the year 2007. This has been discontinued since last year. Milkfed sweets were much in demand throughout the state and people were assured of a decent quality. It seems those with vested interest in the adulterated sweets racket could not tolerate the presence of Milkfed and persuaded the ‘powers’ to keep it out of the business.
It is advisable not to touch sweets during Diwali. With no check on adulteration one cannot be sure of the sweets being sold and consumed. Adulterated sweets can land you in serious health trouble.
Wishing everyone a healthy festive season ahead. Stay away from sweets… Please!!