During Diwali the entire landscape looks festive and beautiful and there are sounds of celebration all around. However, are you sure the diwali sweets you have just bought have been hygienically prepared? Will your celebrations be as joyful if your family and friends fall ill by consuming these sweets?
While most licensed sweet shops will follow the food safety regulations but in the Indian context, there are many sweet shops and independent sweet manufacturing units where food safety norms could be overlooked, especially in the unorganised food sector. It is a well-known fact that many sweet shops do not have their own kitchens but depend on sweet manufacturing units or neighbourhood kitchens and third parties to prepare sweets in bulk because of the high demand during Diwali.
There are several licensed sweet shops that also use the services of sweet contractors for preparing sweets in bulk, especially during the festive season. However, do all these sweet contractors or temporary bulk sweet makers have FSSAI licenses? Do they prepare the sweets keeping food safety in mind? If you were to visit these temporary sweet making workshops you could be surprised to see that their facilities lack hygiene and sanitation. Most often they do not have running water and their utensils and equipment do not get a proper cleaning. Since they often work in cramped spaces, they use the floor for storing ingredients and prepare sweets on the floor. They probably have no screens on doors and windows which makes these sweets a fair target for flies and insects. So even when buying sweets from a well-decorated and clean sweet shop, you must know the source from where the sweets have come.
Buying sweets during Diwali is a tradition that most consumers follow, particularly as sweets denote celebration and happiness. Since the demand is so high, sweets are often prepared in advance and in bulk without ensuring the freshness of the raw materials. There is also no surety about their quality and no way to ascertain whether the ingredients have been bought from licensed shops, particularly the ghee, milk, khoya and chenna. There are chances, especially in temporary and unlicensed sweet making units that the raw materials used in making of sweets are substandard, adulterated or even contaminated. Food Safety Department must inspect these temporary sweet making units that come up during the festive season so consumers can be assured of safe and hygienic sweets. Inspections must be carried out at all sweet manufacturing units to check if they are followinghygienic practices and food safety regulations. Samples need to be collected from these bulk sweet producers to ensure sweets are not contaminated or made with adulterated ingredients.
During festive season Food Safety Officers are more active and do carry out regular checks on adulteration of milk, ghee, oil, flour and other ingredients and additives. However, there is a need to also keep a check on the personal hygiene of the workers who are handling and preparing the sweets at the sweet manufacturing units, as many are temporarily employed for the festive season. Obviously, these workers do not wear clean clothes leave aside gloves and aprons, or headgear when preparing these sweets. The facilities may not also be in clean surroundings and located away from pollutants and premises free of rodents, insects and flies. The sweet manufacturing premises must be inspected to see whether they have proper ventilation, working surfaces and separate sweet preparation and storage facilities. There is no doubt that floors cannot be used as working surface and for storage. There must be proper waste disposal facility and potable water for cleaning equipment. Unless these food safety precautions are in place there are chances that the sweets have not been prepared as per food regulations so the sweets could be unhygienic or of poor quality.
There is no doubt that all sweet shops cannotbe ISO22000 certified but at least they can purchase raw materials from FSSAI licensed vendors only and ensure sweets are prepared under good hygiene practices. However, in the Indian context it is only the larger sweet chains and bigger companies that can ensure proper food safety, hygiene and sanitation when preparing sweets and provide quality sweets to consumers. The larger and well-established sweet shops often send raw materials like khoya to laboratories for testing to ensure the purity of their products. They follow food regulations and use approved colours and ingredients in their sweets. During the festival season, when there are greater chances of adulteration, using ingredients like milk, sugar and khoya from verified sources ensures that the sweet products are safe to consume. So if you wish to have a healthy and safe Diwali celebration then buy sweets only from FSSAI licensed and registered sweet shops where the quality of the sweets is in no doubt.