FSSAI is presently working on standards for Feni, which is a triple distilled alcoholic spirit produced in Goa, and for the Mahua-based drink, which is also a spirit that is popular in the eastern parts of India. Feni has been declared a heritage drink in the coastal state of Goa and is made from cashews which grow there. The Mahua drink, on the other hand, is made from the flowers of the Mahua tree. Both are traditional drinks and have been made in these regions of India since ages. However, now the FSSAI has begun formulating standards for these spirits so as to ensure their safe production and consumption. FSSAI is also likely to place Feni and Mahua in a separate category of drinks when formulating standards. Once the standards are finalised the FSSAI is likely to place them before the Codex Alimentarius Commission for international approval. Feni has already obtained the geographical indication mark (GI) from the GI Registry, Government of India.
Some Feni distillers in Goa are of the view that having standards for Feni is a good move as it will improve the quality of the Feni and will prevent any kind of adulteration so consumers will be able to have quality products. Making these drinks involves various processes and that is the reason that quality standards can become an issue but developing suitable standards can remove any issues. According to Parashram J Patil, Institute for Natural Resources, Kolhapur Feni and Mahua are food items that also provide certain health benefits. He also believes that since Feni is a by-product of cashews, making Feni helps to boost the local economy and improvement in the quality of Feni will ensure better returns.
In its report, the Parliamentary Panel on Health urged the Apex food regulator to standardise the traditional drinks of India. In India, there is diversity in food, beverages and eating habits and the various regions of the country consume different kinds of local beverages, which are a reflection of their local culture and flavours. Drinks made from the Mahua flower and other local spices are popular among the tribal people. Such local beverages have been commercialised by private companies and are being sold in the market as their popularity is growing among the urban masses.
The Parliamentary Committee recommended to the FSSAI that they must formulate standards because it was observed that there is no uniformity in making these traditional drinks and beverages. Neither are there any guidelines to regulate and monitor the production processes of these local drinks. Standards for the alcoholic content in these traditional beverages will ensure the food safety and quality and will prevent instances of alcohol poisoning. The Committee also felt that there is a need to standardise the use of ingredients and to regulate the production so these traditional local drinks are safe for consumption. Standardisation will also enable them to become commercially competitive as they could then be at par with international drinks and beverages.