Television news report triggers a controversy
A television news report saying that the laboratory analysis of samples of “stale” Appam distributed as Prasadom in Sabarimala revealed a high level of toxicity created a scare among pilgrims on Sunday.
The Travancore Devaswom Board denied the allegation in a press conference. Food safety authorities too said the charge was baseless.
The news report said the Council for Food Research and Development laboratory in Konni had found high toxicity in the Appam samples collected on November 16 and 17 following complaints from pilgrims. The level of toxicity was so high, it said, that consuming the Prasadom could have been fatal for children. M.P. Govindan Nair, President of the Devaswom Board, and Subhash Vasu, member, told The Hindu that the Board had received a copy of the laboratory report in the afternoon, but it did not mention toxicity.
K. Anilkumar, Joint Food Safety Commissioner, said the laboratory report did not mention the presence of toxic substances in the samples, but reported high levels of yeast and mould.
K. Babu, Special Commissioner appointed by the Kerala High Court, said the report signed by A. Bhadran, Chief Analyst at the food quality monitoring laboratory of the council, said, “The yeast and mould counts of the Appam samples were found to be very high and hence cannot be recommended for human consumption. The high presence of yeast and mould found in the Appam samples may be due to lack of good manufacturing practice and good hygiene practice during preparation, packing and storage as envisaged in the Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011.”
Mr. Nair and Mr. Vasu said the entire stock of 1.6 lakh packets of Appam was destroyed on the directions of the Food Safety Commissionerate on Thursday night. The Board had been distributing fresh Appam to the pilgrims in compliance with the directions of the food safety authorities since Friday. They said the mould infestation might have been due to the excessive use of plantains in Appam.