Tirupati: The famous ladoos of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) are under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) scanner.
The temple which gives ladoos to devotees as ‘prasadam’ does not have a license from the FSSAI to distribute the food item, and has been directed to get one at the earliest.
An FSSAI letter addressed to the Commissioner of Food Safety, Andhra Pradesh, states that “as per the definition of ‘food’ under FSS Act, laddoo which is presented as ‘prasadam’ at the temple is food”. It further says that the applicability of the Act is not affected if the food is purchased or distributed free of cost.
The letter then asks TTD to obtain a license to distribute the prasadam. “TTD, therefore, has to obtain a license and, fulfill all the responsibilities of a FBO (food business operator) as stipulated in Section 23 of FSS Act as well as comply with its rules and regulations,” the FSSAI letter says.
The letter came on a complaint filed by RTI activist T Narasimha Murthy to the chairperson of FSSAI. In his complaint, he cited “serious lapses in adherence to food safety norms at the temple resulting in “unsafe human consumption”.
Questioning the hygiene standards, the RTI activist’s letter said, “deficiencies are noticed at all stages, namely manufacture, storage, distribution and sale”.
The activist said that the health condition of the employees engaged in making the prasadam is not known nor is it “certified by a competent medical officer”.
The letter cited reports of devotees finding “extraneous substances” in the laddoo, such as “bolt nut, key chain, Pan Parag wrapper”.
Based on the complaint, state health department officials visited the temple premises to take stock of the hygiene standards of the kitchen. The officials were denied permission to enter the kitchen (potu).
The joint executive officer of TTD denied permission stating that laddoo prasadam cannot be termed food and the transaction of laddoo is not sale under the provisions of the Central Sales tax, 1956.
The TDD official further said that “potu” is an auspicious place where “outsiders cannotbe allowed”.
Further, in a response to FSSAI chairperson, D Sambasiva Rao, deputy executive officer of TTD, said the temple functions under the provisions of the APCHI&E Act-1987. Under the act, the laddoo prasadam cannot be termed as food.
“A small hotel has a license. Why not the TTD? The laddoos are made and sold in lakhs per day. They are also making money. They have to obtain a license and become a role model for others,” said RTI activist Murthy