TIRUPATI: The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) obtained a food safety licence like any other Food Business Operator (FBO) for the famed Tirupati laddu.The TTD applied for food safety licence in May and in August it got licence from FSSAI with an annual fee of Rs 7,500.Bengaluru-based activist T Narasimha Murthy filed a petition to the chairperson of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in Delhi demanding that the TTD should either acquire the necessary licence to operate as a food business or the temple will have to mend its way of operation.
About a year and a half ago, Murthy filed an RTI to inquire whether TTD was operating with a food safety licence. Subsequently, reminders were sent to the TTD by the FSSAI even as recently as June this year asking them to comply with the norms laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. In his petition, Murthy claimed that unsafe and unhygienic methods were being used while making laddus.
In September last year, the then TTD EO D Sambasiva Rao had written back to the FSSAI stating that the laddus that were being distributed among pilgrims cannot be termed as food. “Prasadams of respective Hindu temples will be prepared as per the respective traditional customs, but shall not be intervened under the pretext of FSSAI or CST Acts that demean the religious feelings of crores of Hindu pilgrims,” the executive officer had said back then.
Another rule that they were flouting was the yearly inspection of the kitchens by FSSAI officials, which TTD claimed they cannot allow as the ‘potu’ is an auspicious place where outsiders cannot enter.
In October last year, the FSSAI had retorted to this ‘laddu not food’ claim, by saying, “Food means any substance whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, intended for human consumption except categories like drugs, cosmetics or psychotropic substances. Speaking to Express, the temple priests and employees said, “The temple management takes immediate steps by conducting inquiries and seeking reports from all departments concerned whenever any anomaly occurs. There is no need for any inspection by government institutions.”