Thursday, September 13, 2012


Food preparations, where ever they are made, can be hazardous when proper sanitary and hygienic practices are not adopted. If frequent food poisoning episodes are reported around the world, reason for a significant percentage of them can be attributed to ignorance, callousness, insensitivity and greediness for increasing profitability on the part of the manufacturers. Places of worship like Temples, Churches, Mosques, Ashrams etc attract huge number of devotees regularly and serving meals and offering prasadam are accepted tradition. While in smaller places limited volumes are made in kitchens located within the premises, there are also outsourced type of products made in central facilities for supply to the temples in some parts of the country. Large temples like Tirupati, Sabarimala, Dharmasthala, Udipi Temple etc receive thousands of visitors every day and the kitchens in these places are slowly modernizing the preparation facilities, though the pace of change is very slow. Sabarimala Temple was recently in the news after it was announced by the Travancore Devaswam Board which administers this temple that CFTRI, Mysore would be its consultant for improving the prasadam preparations from quality and safety angles. Here is a take on this new development about which devotees might be happy.  

The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, has been appointed the official consultant of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) for providing technical guidance to ensure the quality of Aravana, Appam, and other prasadom preparation at Sabarimala, Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar who is also the Chief Commissioner of the board, has said. He was talking to media persons at Sabarimala on Sunday after inspecting the Nilackal base camp, Pampa, and Sabarimala to review the arrangements for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season that begins in mid-November. He said the decision on the CFTRI's appointment came in the wake of the suggestions of the Kerala High Court, the Food Safety Commissioner, and Ayyappa devotees. Mr. Jayakumar said the TDB would procure quality jaggery for Aravana and Appam preparation directly from manufacturers with a proven track record. Tender had been invited to supply jaggery directly to the TDB godown at Pampa, he said.
It is amazing that the hard core babus in the government took almost 25 years to take this decision since CFTRI made the offer of helping the Temple to do the same and streamline the production way back in late nineteen eighties. Of course this latest decision did not come with any conviction as it was forced on the government by the Kerala High Court through one of the judgments delivered recently! The famous products associated with this popular temple include Aravana payasam, a jaggery based semi liquid preparation and Neyyappam, a fried sweet item, both of which became notorious during recent years because of contamination episodes and serious complaints from devotees regarding quality. It must be recalled that CFTRI was associated with temples like Tirupati and Palani earlier to provide technical guidance and such efforts should have been continued with other mass feeding places also for safeguarding the health of the devotees. The success of such sporadic efforts depends on the dynamism of the head of the temple authorities in taking decisions and supporting and implementing the recommendations of the technical team that may be entrusted with the task. A multidisciplinary team with engineers, microbiologists, food scientists, infestation control experts and packaging technology can handle the task effectively, if unstinting cooperation is forthcoming from the staff in these places, setting aside their prejudices and personal agenda.


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