Ahead of Deepavali, the food safety and drug administration department on Thursday began raids on outlets selling sweets.

A number of samples were taken for testing of shelf life, use of colouring agents, quality and for growth of micro-organisms such as E. Coli, coliform, salmonella, clostridium, yeast and mould count.

More than 1,000 shops in the city are likely to be screened for unhygienic conditions this month, and improvement notices will be issued to shops that function in unsanitary conditions, department officials said.

Starting Friday, all shops selling sweets for Deepavali will be given instructions on food safety and hygiene by food safety officers. At least seven per cent of the 22,000 food business operators in Chennai district sell sweets, an official said

“Most packed sweets sold by food business operators do not have a date of manufacturing. We intend to create awareness about this and other aspects over the weekend,” said Lakshmi Narayanan, designated officer for the district.

Consumers often face problems with the sweets they buy, but many of these cases go unreported. Residents must report cases of unhygienic or unsafe products to the department, he said.

G. Marimuthu, a consultant with the National Insurance Company, who reported a case of food poisoning to the Chennai Corporation, said he suffered from vomiting after eating some sweets at his office.

“Initially, I did not know that my illness had been caused by the sweets. After others at my workplace shared similar experiences after eating those sweets, I lodged a complaint with the Corporation. They directed us to inform the food safety department. The department assured us that they would test the sweets and take action,” said Mr. Marimuthu.

“People should be careful when they buy milk sweets. The high protein and fat content in them facilitates the growth of mould and yeast. This causes throat infections, diarrhoea and fever,” said a food analyst. “We allow a total plate count agar of 1,500 per gram. People who have low immunity levels are usually affected when they eat sweets that have a higher count,” he said.

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