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Take 5: Prasadam is made with faith in God. It can’t be called food, says TTD Health Officer

The FSSAI has held that since laddoo is food as per the Food Safety and Standards Act, the TTD must obtain a food safety licence for the laddoo

Written by Sreenivas Janyala | Updated: December 18, 2016 3:28 am
Tirupati laddoos, Tirupati laddoos unhygienic, FSSAI, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Food Safety and Standards Act, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. TTD, food safety licence, TTd Health Officer, india news, indian express Dr S Sharmistha, Health Officer, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD)

After a complaint that the famed Tirupati laddoos were being made in an unhygienic manner, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has held that since laddoo is food as per the Food Safety and Standards Act, the TTD must obtain a food safety licence for the laddoo. Dr S Sharmistha, Health Officer, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) responds:

1. How many laddoos does the TTD make in a day?

The TTD prepares two lakh laddoos on weekdays and up to 3 lakh on weekends, holidays and festivals. The laddoos are prepared by members of a particular Brahmin sect who have been doing this work for centuries, at a kitchen in the temple of Lord Venkateshwara.

2. How do you ensure hygiene standards?

The TTD uses 41 items to prepare the laddoos and other prasadam. From jeera to ghee to flour, to dry fruits, all are inspected for quality, hygiene and freshness. We have a state-of-the-art food testing laboratory. No other temple in the country has such facilities. We also regularly conduct health checks on the laddoo makers. Traditionally, they shave off their hair and wear a single clean cloth while in the kitchen. The prepared laddoos are taken to distribution spots under security escort.

We regularly take inputs from the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad. We also consult experts at the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Hyderabad on hygiene and safety, and follow guidelines of the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore. Besides, the entire process is captured on CCTV.

3. So can Tirupati laddoo be labelled food, as has been contended?

No, it is prasadam, an offering to God. The first laddoo of each batch is offered to the Lord, which is then mixed with the rest of the preparation and distributed to the pilgrims. It is a very sacred process, and the prasadam is made with devotion and faith in God and cannot be called food. The faith of pilgrims should also be respected and it should be referred to only as prasadam.

4. Should food inspectors be allowed access to the kitchen?

The TTD Board has set up a sub-committee to look into the FSSAI demand to certify the laddoos. It will give its report on December 20. Traditionally, the TTD has never allowed any outsider to set foot in the kitchen except the TTD’s own health officers. No one has ever taken ill after consuming the temple’s prasadam.

5. What about allegations of insects etc found in laddoos?

These are false allegations. Because of some grudge or rivalry, some miscreants introduced external objects into the prasadam in a few instances.

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  1. D
    Dec 18, 2016 at 2:54 am
    The issue of Right to make laddus for the Lord was agitated upto the Hon'ble Supreme Court. The court judgement of 1996 has defined 'dharma' while deciding on the hereditary rights of one sect of Brahmins to make laddus. The Health Officer ought to have mentioned the implementation status of the said judgement. No doubt, 'Prasadam' is a matter of faith. So is the faith in holy water from the Ganges. But purity of water as much as the purity of ingredients going into laddus need to be measured and recorded regularly. If no quality controls, as per law of the land, are required to be followed in the processing of laddus, there ought to be a system of quality control on the 'ritual' of preparing and distributing Prasadam/laddu. Further, there ought to be a procedure to do 'prayatchitta' if there are lapses in following such rituals. So, why not the TTD go for live webcast of their kitchen, where laddu and other prasadams are made every day? Such webcasting not only deepens the faith in Prasadam but also indirectly promotes the hygiene practices for adoption by other public kitchens at all religious places. Govinda!
    1. A
      Dec 18, 2016 at 2:14 am
      Can't comment! I will be sent to stan! I don't want to go there!
      1. J
        Dec 18, 2016 at 2:05 am
        Let her call what she wants to call. lt;br/gt;Every eny in India is obliged to comply with laws of land.
        1. K
          Dec 18, 2016 at 3:10 am
          Just like your devotees put faith in God when they fling their black money in the hundi?! What a temple! What trust! What TRUST!