diwali mithais – the sweet and bitter story

Sweets are always an integral part of any joyous or festive celebrations in India and so when Diwali comes the ladoos, pedas, barfis, jalebis , seera, rabdi all dressed in gorgeous attire arrives at the market to lure us which even the calorie conscious people find hard to resist. Hence to score on this front the sweetmeat shops began blending and experimenting with various ingredients , themes and thus “designer sweets” made their entry in the market that catches easily the people’s fancies.

Kaju (cashew nut) still rule the roost as most important ingredients in the sweets along side with almonds and figs but a new brand of pan mithais are slowly getting popular and this year with pan pethas encasing the gulkand they are determined to steal the show.

This reminds me of delicious mava gulkand roll of Anand which I love so much.

Usually the Diwali sweets are priced between Rs 500-600 per kg but the most expensive sweet this year is “badam laugh” which is priced at whopping Rs 1400 per kg. Interestingly, it is the bestsellers like pedas, kaju rolls, motichoor ke ladoo, ras malais, kesar jalebis, badam bhog as usual rules the house because of their sheer popularity, delicious taste, mass production and are light on pocket too.

But the bitter truth behind this sweet story is “are you getting the real stuff” in spite of shelling out so much on Diwali mithais. Unlike Kolkata where sweets are made of fresh chenna, North Indian sweets are largely made from Khova or mawa, the essential ingredient of any sweet. So during Diwali when demand goes through roof and prices skyrocketed, the quality of sweets takes a beating and are coolly replaced with urea, chalk powders, khova made from synthetic milk, diesel to add shine to the colors, aluminum foil instead of silver vark. These synthetic mawa lands up in the sweetshops just 2 or 3 days before Diwali and are sold at price between Rs 20-40 per kg whereas the original mawa prices Rs 150-200 per kg. Metallic yellow to non-permitted carcinogenic food colors are all in use faking the almonds, chocolates, pista, saffron or kesar in the sweets. And the hygienic conditions in which these sweets are made is unmentionable.

After spurious khova or mawa, it is the chocolates which become bitter this Diwali. Inspired by the “kuch meetha ho jaaye” Cadbury advertisement, gifting chocolates becomes the new mantra this season. And to reap the benefits some manufactures resort to old tricks of adding inferior quality of sugars, starch, synthetic chocolates , colors and even adding minerals to increase the weight.

Be it sweets or chocolates, it seems people has no respite from food adulteration. Health officers who pocketed large sums of moneys from the spurious stuff manufactures are obviously silent over the issue, though some Government officials are conducting  random checks and raids.

Where the corruption is high, bureaucracy step in everywhere and public health is at stake, it is upon the consumer who can either approach the labs for testing the adulterated food items or chose to stay away from it.

In view of the above, it is better to rewind to the old days when Diwali goodies are made at home rather than becoming the victim of food adulterations. Not only we are consuming poisons but are gifting it too.

Sources: print and web media