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.