Places of Worship are a very important part of Indian society and food served in these places is regarded as pure and sacred but food safety also needs to be implemented. FSSAI has, therefore, initiated Project BHOG (Blissful Hygienic Offering to God) to encourage all Places of Worship (PoW) to adopt and maintain food safety and hygiene in the preparation of Prasad. All the PoW that distribute Prasad, including vendors that sell Prasad in the vicinity of the PoW, are henceforth required to obtain FSSAI license/ registration and they also need to follow the sanitary and hygiene practices as per Food Safety and Standards regulations. The FSSAI aims to create awareness among the PoW through Project BHOG to discourage malpractices related to food served as Prasad, langar, etc. and to ensure regulatory compliance.
Training of food handlers and vendors inside and outside the PoW premises is an integral part of the BHOG initiative. On a pilot basis, the FSSAI has carried out training programmes in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu along with trainers from Association of Food Scientists and Technologists of India (AFSTI) with the support of State Governments. The FSSAI has also developed a guidance document for maintaining food safety and hygiene in PoW which PoW can follow to implement regulatory requirements of food safety and hygiene. The guidance document provides tips, dos and don’ts, methods, and practices that PoW needs to follow in serving hygienic Prasad.
To improve the level of food safety in PoW pan India, it is important that Project BHOG is implemented in all States and UTs where Prasad and food are served to devotees. FSSAI also organized a workshop on 12 January 2018 which was attended by 66 delegates representing major PoW across India, States FDA, AFTSI and auditing agencies. Through the workshop, the PoW was sensitized and encouraged to adopt Project BHOG in their premises. Through an order dated 29 January 2018, the FSSAI has laid down that all State/UT Commissioners of Food Safety will need to
- coordinate and work with PoW to adopt BHOG
- organize workshops and training programmes for food handlers, cooks and vendors on food safety
- encourage the PoW to display Safe and Nutritious messages at various places for the benefit of the devotees to inculcate healthy habits among people
Workshop on Implementation of Food Safety in Places of Worship was undertaken by FSSAI on 12 January 2018 which created awareness in the need to maintain food safety and hygiene during Prasad preparation in PoW. During the workshop
- Project BHOG was rolled out and the Guidance document for maintaining food safety and hygiene in PoW was released.
- Food handlers and vendors were given insights and about project BHOG and training for handling Prasad food hygienically.
- The FSSAI also informed the PoW about food fortification and asked them to use fortified edible salt, wheat, rice, milk and oil in their Prasad
- The PoW were informed about the messaging and artwork developed by FSSAI on Safe and Nutritious food and were encouraged to display these in their premises to educate devotees
In his address at the workshop Pushpesh Pant, Indian Academic, food historian and writer on temple foods of India made the following observations in his address
- Purity of Prasad and food served in PoW were akin to observation of hygiene in the kitchen and so these two go hand in hand
- Prasad can be termed a high risk operation since food is prepared for thousands of people and safe food handling practices must be implemented strictly in the preparation of Prasad as it could impact a large population
- Any unused Prasad must be disposed of through environmentally friendly means like converting into vermicompost, preparation of incense sticks, natural colours dyes, etc.
- Adoption of modern technology to maintain tradition, purity, quality, cost and consistency of the Prasad as adopted in Sidhivinayak temple in Mumbai.
- Adoption of quality control of ingredients, standardisation of recipes and labelling on Prasad packaging a must.
Project BHOG implementation journey
AFSTI team of trainers led by Dr. Prabhod Halde released a short film on Project BHOG which showcased the BHOG components in Sidhivinayak temple in conjunction with ICT Mumbai and FDA Maharashtra, with support from FSSAI. The same BHOG programme was also implemented in Sai Prasadalay of Shirdi Sansthan. ASTFI standardised the raw materials and the process to ensure food safety of Prasad and food prepared at these temples. Other good practices introduced are the use of stainless steel equipment and machines, maintenance of personal hygiene and proper waste disposal. IN other temples where AFTSI team is working for the implementation of FSMS are Swaminarayan temple in Dadar and Ahmedabad and Sai temple Hyderabad.
BHOG implementation in states
- Maharashtra has covered 63 places and 236 temples under Project BHOG including training of 3500 food handlers.
- Gujarat FDA has implemented the programme in major temples like Shri Kashtabhanjan Dev temple, Shri Somnath Temple, Shri Swaminarayan Temple, Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam and includes training of food handlers and supervisors in food safety in process and preparation of Prasad and personal hygiene of kitchen and serving staff as also the packaging and storage of prepared Prasad in these PoW
- Tamil Nadu 150 food handlers from 20 major PoW have been trained under Project BHOG by FSSAI and AFSTI. After training there has been an improvement in these PoW as kitchens have been equipped with modern gadgets like steamers, gas stoves, vegetable cutting machines, mixers and grinders. Cooks and helpers have been taught to maintain personal hygiene with periodic checking of personal hygienic and health of food handlers including serving staff and there is monitoring of quality of food items and Prasad is sold strictly by authorised agencies in the temple premises.
- Adoption of Project BHOG by States and UTs: States and UTs will nominate a nodal officer for Project BHOG. States will coordinate with PoW authorities to implement BHOG. Different chapters of the AFSTI will assist the PoW in their states for implementation of food safety under BHOG
- Conducting workshops cum training sessions in states: FSSAI along with States and UTs will conduct workshops cum training sessions in different states with the next being undertaken in Gujarat. AFSTI will develop E-learning modules for training food handlers. Participating PoW will nominate their food handlers, cooks and vendors selling Prasad for training.
- Creating awareness about safe and nutritious food among citizens: FSSAI will share messages and artwork relating to the importance of safe and nutritious foods with PoW so that these can be displayed by PoW in their premises for the benefit of devotees to inculcate healthy eating habits.
- Third party audit: PoW where project BHOG is implemented will be audited by FSSAI empanelled auditing agencies and plaques will be awarded to those where PoW BHOG has been implemented successfully. Other PoW will also be audited for making improvements in their food safety systems.