Testing gods’ food

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has a knack for ending up with an egg on its face.


The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has a knack for ending up with an egg on its face. It has now taken cudgels with gods’ many abodes. After tasting defeat from multinationals like Nestle, for the controversial high content of lead in two-minute Maggi noodles, India’s top food regulator has set its goals higher-heavenwards, to be precise. Only gods know if they would like to taste FSSI-standardised bhog and prasad. The food regulator is hoping to ensure the “safety” of prasad distributed in temples and at other religious places. Its approach is secular, however. 

The FSSAI has a challenging task on its organisational hands. According to the 2001 Census, India has 2.4 million places of worship, visited by approximately 300 million people every day. These numbers must have grown since, by the grace of God! While the FSSAI has already begun standardising prasad at famous temples like Shri Siddhivinayak temple (Mumbai), Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple (Tirupati) and Sai Baba temple (Shirdi), the fate of its crusade would rest with millions of bhakts. Will they like to have the food, supposedly partaken by the gods, after it is sullied in the name of sanitising and standardising by the FSSAI?  

Where faith is at work, even angels fear to tread! But the FSSAI assumes to straighten up complex socio-cultural issues. The organisation is in its infancy. Launched only in 2006, it has no judicial power to punish offenders and was told by the Supreme Court in the Nestle case to remove ambiguity about its food regulations. They would know — not all prasad is sold in sealed packets. There is no mention of the ingredients on a packet and having a date of expiry would be a blasphemy. Yet, the authorities of all religious institutions have been asked to take a licence from the FSSAI for providing any kind of prasad, bhog, langar etc, even when they outsource it. It will require a lot of ingenuity to standardise charnamrit, the consecrated water, and the Eucharist across the country.


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