Who knew? India bans silver leaf of animal origin in food items

Sushmi Deyl of The Times of India reports the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has banned the use of any material of animal origin in silver leaf (chandi ka warq), commonly used in confectionaries and sweets like barfi for decoration and also in pan and packaged supari.

silver.leafAccording to sources in the ministry, the move comes in the wake of concerns over use of intestines of cows and buffaloes in making these thin strips of silver. “The silver leaf is prepared by placing small thin strips of silver between the intestines of cows and buffaloes and continuously hammering these bundles for up to eight hour a day till desired thickness of silver leaf is achieved,” an official said. He said the process was found to be offensive and unhygienic posing potential risk to consumers. Moreover, such silver sheets do not carry any green dot or maroon dot. Hence, consumers fail to differentiate between a vegetarian and non-vegetarian product.

There were also concerns that the silver leaf contained heavy metal traces such as nickel, lead, chromium and cadmium – which are harmful for health.

India to ban use of bulls’ guts in chandi ka vark soon

The Food and Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is, according to The Pioneer, finalizing a move to end the widely used practice of manufacturing silver leaf — popularly called ‘chandi ka vark’ — by hammering thin sheets of silver in middle of booklets made of intestines of bull/ox.

chandi ka varkThe proposed ban applies to usage of animal parts at any stage of manufacture of the ‘chandi ka vark’, used on paan, sweets and fruits etc. ‘Vark’ is also used in syrups like in Kesar (saffron) syrup and in some Ayurvedic medicines.

The FSSAI has also proposed the norms regarding thickness, weight and purity of the silver leaf. And manufacturers will have to adhere to the labeling standards like any other food products.

“To regulate the industry which has so far been dominated by the unorganised sector, the food regulator has made it clear that under the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011, relating to other food and ingredients, ‘no material of animal origin shall be used at any stage of manufacture of the silver leaf,” said sources in the Authority.

The regulation also proposes that “silver leaf shall be in the form of sheet of uniform thickness, free from creases and folds and that its weight should be upto 2.8 gm/Sq meter while the silver content shall be of minimum 999/1000 purity.

The regulator has already received suggestions from the stakeholders and it will soon finalise the guidelines, said the sources.

When enforced, the standards would do away with the widely used method of preparing the silver leaves, wherein the intestines of cattle/ox, obtained from slaughterhouses, are used for making it. “It is unhygienic too,” sources said.

“The ‘chandi ka vark’ is made by hammering thin sheets of silver in middle of booklets made of a bull’s intestines. After slaughtering a bull, its intestines are removed immediately and sold to the manufacturers of foils.

“The foil manufacturer removes blood and stool from the intestines, and cuts them into pieces. Then he puts one piece of intestine over another, making a booklet out of it. At his home, or in the factory, he puts one silver (or gold) sheet in-between each such booklet and hammers it hard until those metal sheets turn into thin wafers,” explained a manufacturer, on condition of anonymity.”