Not so sweet!

Not so sweet!

Not so sweet!

Just ahead of Diwali, concerns about adulterated sweets have risen again. Consumer helplines are reporting cases of people falling ill after consuming mithai, especially khoya-based, and the Department of Food Safety, Delhi government, is conducting raids at various sweetmeat shops.

While some of these malpractitioners may be caught, some contaminated sweets are bound to make way into your home. Metrolife speaks to a few food safety experts on how you can detect adulterants in sweets and steer clear of health problems.

Ashok Kanchan, researcher, NGO Consumer-Voice, says, “Milk is the source of most impurities in sweets. Food safety inspectors often unearth godowns making synthetic milk – with urea, oil, sugar and emulsifiers – at this time. Then, while making khoya from milk, unscrupulous shopkeepers often skim the natural ghee, which is used or sold separately, and substitute it with cheaper oils like soyabean. Often, starch and mashed potatoes are also added to khoya to increase the volume which gives you substandard khoya to make sweets.”

While cheaper oils and potatoes in khoya do not show any immediate harmful effects on health, the bigger worry remains the use of industrial colours. Somya Shrivastava, chief clinical nutritionist, Max Healthcare, Saket, says, “Often, sweetmeat makers substitute FDA approved organic colours with textile colours. This is a very dangerous trend because such chemicals like Metanil Yellow, Lead Nitrate and Muriatic Acid can lead to allergies, infections, stomach aches, vomiting and food poisoning.”

For this, Somya advises staying away from unnaturally brightly coloured sweets as well as those with warq. Traditionally, a coating of silver foil is added to sweets for beauty and health reasons, but often, it is replaced with aluminium. “Aluminium is cheaper but when consumed in large quantities can adversely affect your vital organs. To check for aluminium coating, burn it and you will find sandy remains. Silver on the other hand, forms cohesive balls.” Somya adds, “Khoya with starch will turn deep blue on addition of iodine solution.”

Arun Gupta, owner of Nathu’s Sweets, Bengali Market, says that sweetmeat makers these days have several ways of checking on their raw material and must do that to save their own reputation. “Lactometers are available at very cheap rates these days to check if the supplier is adding unwanted stuff in the milk. Besides, one can also send sweet samples to laboratories for just Rs 250 a sample, to verify its purity. These are reliable tests.”

Sweet lovers, though, are not taking chances and have devised their own ways to satiate their sweet tooth. Mitali Das, a homemaker, says, “In this time of inflation, one can be hundred per cent sure that the sweets you get in the market are not pure. So what’s the point of buying them for hundreds of rupees and then getting admitted in the hospital?”
“I have started buying chocolates, fruits and dry fruits instead of sweets. One can even make a dark chocolate sauce, cut fruits in interesting shapes and dip them in the sauce for an exotic dessert. Even low fat yoghurts in different flavours are a good nutritious replacement for sweets. I think that’s a good way to celebrate Diwali.”    

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