Diwali is about letting go of the restraint and splurging on sweets. Yes the danger of excessive sugar is well known but there are bigger dangers lurking in the the lovely sweet box you just got as a gift from a leading sweet brand in the city.
Last year, a survey done by SPECS (Society of Pollution and Environmental Conservation Scientists) found that 90% of sweets and snacks in multiple cities of India were adulterated.
The demand for these products rises astronomically during the festive season, but of course, the production of milk cannot go up suddenly as the number of cattle remains the same. So when supply is X and Demand is 10X what do you do? You Adulterate.
The first thing you MUST avoid is – sweets made of KHOYA. Khoya is made with milk thickened by cooking it over low heat for hours. It’s commonly used for making a wide variety of Indian sweets or mithai. However, nowadays, when the demand of khoya is on the rise, some vendors, in order to meet these demands, may indulge in adulterating the dairy product by using harmful chemicals.
Mawa or khoya used in Diwali sweets may be adulterated with a number of foreign ingredients like fine flour, starch, suji or semolina or even blotting paper. While these three are the relatively tame adulterants, there are some things added to mawa which are potentially harmful when consumed, including urea, palm oil or detergent! Some dairies also add foreign fat in mawa and milk to make these products taste ‘richer’. When people consume sweets made from these adulterated dairy products, their health may be affected.
The adulteration goes beyond milk sweets. Your favourite besan laddoos are commonly adulterated with kesari daal – no this ain’t some high-grade protein, it’s animal feed unfit for human consumption.
Rasgullas can be made with all kinds of spurious synthetic and paint milk. And the shimmering vark is often replaced with aluminium foil.
So whats the solution. The best solution is to eat home made sweets. Yes thats a lot of toil – fortunately my wife is one of the few who still follows the tradition and toils for hours every day for a week before Diwali. But thats rare – people are more interested in getting ready for their card parties than making sweets at home.
The second best solution could be to stick to sweets made of jaggery or “Gur” – but thats rare. You walk into a shop and you will hardly find any “Gur” sweets. Traditional South Indian shops may have Manoharam, Appam, Adirasam and Boli – but they are becoming rarer by the day.
There are a few simple tests that you can do at home to check the quality of your milk. If the milk at home is adulterated this season be sure that the sweets in your neighbourhood Mithai Shop are.
Test 1- Water : This one’s pretty simple. You don’t have to wait for Diwali to test the milk quality. Take a few drops of milk and place them on a slanting, smooth, polished surface. Pure milk will glide down slowly leaving a trail behind while adulterated milk will slip pretty fast leaving a clean slate.
Test 2: Urea- The most common adulterant. Take a teaspoon or two of milk in a cup and add a teaspoon of soya powder or toor dal powder. Shake it till it mixes uniformly. After a couple of minutes, dip a litmus paper. Moment of truth. If the paper turns from red to blue, it indicates the presence of urea in milk. Discard.
Test 3: Detergent – Water down milk and shake it vigorously. If it lathers, there’s detergent. Puke! Preserve the sample and wash the leftover milk down the drain and complain to the local FDA.
Enjoy your Diwali – but think twice before eating that tasty looking Milk Sweet this season.