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Food regulator gave state officials list of around 500 products that failed to get approvals, many of which were found to contain high levels heavy metals, caffeine and iron fillings, said sources. A day before it ordered Nestle to stop the manufacture and sale of nine variants of Maggi Noodles, citing tests that showed “unsafe” lead levels, the national food regulator handed over to states a blacklist containing at least 32 products from Tata Starbucks, a cereal from Kellogg’s, poultry products from Venky’s and even a multivitamin from Ranbaxy. The list of around 500 products rejected by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) was handed over to food safety commissioners attending the authority’s central scientific advisory committee meeting in New Delhi last Thursday.
Many of the products on the FSSAI list — obtained by The Indian Express — were found to contain high levels of sugar, caramel, salt or heavy metals, caffeine and iron fillings, said sources. The Starbucks products on the list are mainly sauces and syrups, such as a dark caramel sauce, an international chocolate mix and chestnut-flavoured syrup, which go into the making of various kinds of flavoured coffee, tea and other beverages. Tata Starbucks is a joint venture of Tata Global Beverages and Starbucks Corporation that owns and operates the Starbucks outlets in India. When contacted, a Starbucks spokesperson said the company was “diligently working with… FSSAI to provide the information relating to our pending applications they have asked for”. However, staff at two Starbucks outlets in central and south Delhi told The Indian Express that they were not aware of any of their products or ingredients being present on any such government list. Asked about the company’s products on the FSSAI list, one store staffer said, “Some of these are syrups we use in a lot of our coffees. Starbucks sources told The Indian Express that the rejection of product approvals by FSSAI was on “technical grounds”.
The FSSAI list also includes dietary supplements labelled as suitable for specific age groups, including for children as young as 1-3 years, and linked to brands such as Amway. What’s more, officials admitted that during the short period of time that the FSSAI, which came into being in 2011, had to evaluate “hundreds of applications” from these companies, some of the products were already released in the market pending approval. On Thursday, the state commissioners were asked to “periodically keep watch on the updated list and take necessary action against any violators”. 2.  Ready-to-eat chicken items from Venky’s, including chicken Arabic style kofta and crispy chicken burger patty.
3.  At least 13 weight gain or protein supplements, including Nutricia’s ProtineX and Zeon Lifesciences Ltd. The list also included varieties of ready-to-eat chapati and salad dressings, oils, daal, varieties of tea bags and leaves, cake, organic pulses and cereals, flavour-enhancing syrups, powders, and at least two hair growth products. A state-level food official, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said, “We were told that during the interim period when FSSAI sought additional queries from companies or when processing of applications took time, many companies were launching their products despite the pending approvals. Senior officials said the FSSAI meeting also focussed on dietary supplements, particularly those that promise weight gain. Explaining the scale of the challenge, another official pointed to the controversy surrounding Maggi Noodles. TRY IT OUT: Sign up for free recipes, tips and a 5-day meal plan with shopping list and prep sheet. If you would like to make a one time donation in any amount, please do so by clicking the "Pay Now" button below.
The editors of 3QD put in hundreds of hours of effort each month into finding the daily links and poem, putting out the Monday Magazine, administering the Quark Prizes, arranging the DAG-3QD Peace and Justice Symposia, and doing the massive amount of behind-the-scenes work which goes into running the site. If you value what we do, please help us to pay our editors very modest salaries for their time and cover our other costs by subscribing above. The banner images have been provided by Terri Amig, Carla Goller, Tom Hilde, Georg Hofer, Sheherbano Husain, Margit Oberrauch, S. It was in Kankakee, IL, at a thanksgiving celebration in the mid 80’s that J introduced my fresh-off-the-boat brother to his family as “the guy I told you about, who eats boiled rice with plain yogurt”. There were rumours too, of aunts cunningly smuggling in starter cultures from India in thermos flasks, shamelessly lying to customs men when asked if they had any perishable food items on them, aided of course, by their pious looks, their oblique head nods, not to forget, their mesmerizing bindis. One can only imagine the bindi to have worked as some sort of stupefying device, rendering the unsuspecting official powerless against such south Asian deceit.
In Anne Mendelson’s fine book Milk (2008), the recipe for curd-rice begins with informing the reader that ‘curd’ is used in India as an English equivalent of yogurt.
It is generally believed that yogurt (and other traditional fermented milks) is of reasonable antiquity, possibly Turkish in origin, but a precise date is not really accounted for. Earlier still, it is generally believed that fermented milks, particularly the traditional Egyptian Laban Rayed and Laban Khad, date back to the Phoenician era, as early as 7000 BCE. The most prominent modern proponent of yogurt, and its alleged therapeutic qualities, was the Nobel Laureate Elie Metchnikoff, who in his seminal thesis, The Prolongation Of Life, argued that the longevity of Bulgarian peasants was due to their dietary proclivity of consuming large quantities of fermented milks, particularly yogurt.
Bland dahi, sweet dahi and sour dahi appear in various forms and are used intriguingly in many aspects of Indian cooking. Chandan et al, refer to fermented milk products as ‘functional foods’, and argue for their critical role in dietary habits: “These products fit into the cultural and religious traditions and dietary pattern of many populations”.


As Chandan et al also point out, milk conservation through fermentation has allowed for the preservation of valuable nutrients otherwise lost due to climate factors and this in turn, has allowed for milk products to be preserved and consumed over time periods much longer than the shelf life of milk itself. While traditional Indian dahi is also a ‘yogurt like’ fermented milk product, it is far different from yogurt in many ways.
It is this balance, roundedness, smooth self-assured equanimity that gives Indian dahi great versatility. Nine variants of energy drinks from four companies, including Monster and Tzinga, a children’s energy drink, juices, and probiotic drinks. Sauces and syrups with specific flavours were found to have high quantities of sugar or caramel. These approvals are interim no-objection certificates till the products are standardised by FSSAI. Abbas Raza, Sughra Raza, Margaret Scurlock, Shahzia Sikander, Maria Stockner, and Hartwig Thaler. The principal traditional fermented milk is dahi, alongside its variants and by-products, which include lassi, chaas, misti-doi, shrikand (known as shikarini in antiquity) and ghee, amongst others. In Manufacturing Yogurt And Fermented Milks (Chandan R, et al, 2006), the writer informs us that Persian legends have it that Abraham ascribed his longevity to yogurt and that Emperor Francis I was cured of a debilitating illness (possibly neurasthenia), by a Jewish doctor from Constantinople who administered him a brew of fermented sheep’s milk. He hypothesized, as Nagendra Shah (2006, p 328) writes, “that yogurt bacteria, Lactobacillus delbruckeii ssp bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, control infections caused by enteric pathogens and regulate toxemia, both of which play a major part in ageing and mortality”. Despite a generic northern disregard for curd-rice, and for many things southern, or ‘Madrasi’, spiced dahi alongside rice, in the form of kadhi is prominent all across. Traditionally, the starter culture is never meant to be sold, but is always given away or gifted.
Further, fermentation, the authors argue, has also allowed for “food safety, portability, and novelty for the consumer”. While there is general agreement that probiotic yogurt affects digestion, there seems to be no conclusive proof that it repopulates gut flora.
As Vedamuthu (2006) points out, dahi is ‘a weak gel like junket’, according to Rangappa and Achaya (1975), and ‘is soft and livery’: “Plain yogurt currently made is a firm smooth product that can be spooned without much distortion of the curd body and structure…Dahi, on the other hand, is a soft coagulum that is lumpy, and would display jagged edges when the curd is broken, and exude whey near the cut edges…In terms of flavour, yogurt is characterized by sharp, acid tartness (recent trends in yogurt show a preference for mild acidity) and the characteristic green acetaldehyde flavour.
From an excellent marinade for meats, a main ingredient for lovely fresh salads, raitas and pachadis, to batter flavouring and fortification (not to mention its cosmetic hair and skin use), dahi finds incredible utility and prominence in the vast Indian food firmament.
FSSAI came up only in 2011, and has been receiving hundreds of applications from the beginning… many products have been rejected only now,” a senior official said. Sold commercially in the unorganized sector, dahi is also commonly made in Indian homes, but the recent past, particularly the last decade, has seen a proliferation of packaged dahis, including a few international brands (unfortunately, the vile Nestle dahi is one). KT Achaya, in Indian Food: A Historical Companion (1994), points out that there are several Vedic references to the cow and its bountiful nature. Further references here argue that yogurt and cheese were probably discovered during the Neolithic era. However, it was to be conclusively proven subsequently that these bacteria cannot ‘implant’ in the gut. Microbiologist Jeffery Gordon says here, that there is “a form of communication between yogurt strains and the normal resident bacteria in the gut.
Dahi, on the other hand, is mildly acidic, and diacetyl is the prominent flavour compound”.
It will take another column to approach its stupendous leverage and its complex, intriguing ‘social life’, but I will end here with my mum’s simple recipe for punuku, a delicate, deep fried snack. Over the course of their undergraduate years however, the mid-eastern lad of German stock was to become a neophyte, an enthusiastic partaker (and proponent) of the peculiar delights of curd-rice – a south Indian staple of phenomenal ubiquity, commuting across homes, roadside eateries, college hostels, factory canteens, corporate boardrooms and temples, with the very same attenuated presence that marks its somewhat esoteric flavours.
Dahi is viewed as both nutritious and remedial, in particular, alleviating stomach ailments. The mischievous young Krishna, aside from naughtily nicking the handily discarded clothes of bathing maidens  at riverbanks (such simple earthly delights), was famously keen on milk, ghee and dahi, scoffing stuff at will, and getting caught with his hands in the proverbial earthen pot. The lining of sheepskin milk pouches curdled the milk due to the presence of the enzyme Rennin. Metchnikoff was however, the reason for western interest in yogurt, and as Mendelson points to the irony in Milk, his ‘accurate enough’ knowledge of the starter cultures eventually paved the way for commercial production of yogurt. In Andhra, dahi is left unrefrigerated overnight so as to sour it and is then blended with chickpea flour, green chilies, fresh coconut, cumin, and coriander seeds.
Importantly, the starter compounds used are different – in dahi they are predominantly dairy lactococci and leuconostocs, the former convert lactose to lactic acid and the latter partially produce acetic acid, ethyl alcohol, and carbon monoxide, which impart it with its characteristic ‘balanced rounded flavour’.
The smooth, pacifying and palate-cleansing qualities offer not just the satisfaction of a no-fuss, functional meal, but also holds within mythic curative and sacramental promises. And eventually, the disappointment, for native cultures seldom, if not never, naturally sustain in alien climates.


Further still, there is a reference to A Mediterranean Feast (Wright, C, 1999), where the writer says that “the first unequivocal description of yogurt is found in a dictionary called Divanu luga-i turk, compiled by Kasgarli Mahmut in 1072-1073 during the Seljuk era in the Middle East (1038 – 1194).
This blend is cooked on a slow heat, and cooked vegetables, as varied as lauki, or bottle gourd, drumsticks, okra, spinach, white pumpkin, potatoes are added to it. Kefir itself, which Russian doctors still recommend for gastric ailments, is fascinating for a variety of reasons.
The resultant golden fried balls, exquisitely crunchy on the outside, daintily soft and cheesy on the inside, with a faintly sour coriander inflected taste, cheerily interrupted by the gentle crunch of onion and green chilly, are often accompanied by fresh coconut or ginger chutney. Strategic placement of the container for setting has also seen some innovation in the diaspora. A widely found, consumed and beloved one though, which has no greater aspirations then being what it is, in the form that it is - soft mashed rice, plain, unsweetened dahi or yogurt, with or without tempering. Milk, Achaya informs us, was traditionally curdled with “pieces of various green materials like the putika creeper, the palasha (palash) bark, or the fruit of the kuvala (ber, Ziziphus). Yogurt spread rapidly through the Levant, but it hardly penetrated the Western and northern Mediterranean”.
The soupy blend is then tempered with mustard seeds, a few red chilies, asafetida, and curry leaves.
Naturally probiotic in nature, kefir is a traditional cultured fermented milk from the Caucasus (see this page for greater detail). There have been many claims of health benefits, and as pointed out in the linked NPR piece above, Dannon, the yogurt giant, faced litigation against claims of immune and digestive benefits of its products.
If none around, there need be no cause for concern, just make do with suitable amounts of beer, as I am apt to do on occasion.
My mum placed the cloth-covered container on the steam radiator when in England in the 70’s; others have used ovens, hearths, and fridge motor proximity (see Vikram Doctor’s piece here).
When served with a wispy, incense-like mound of an alarmingly red lime pickle, it not just hits the spot, but also placates, propitiates even, the collective gastric consciousness of South India. The resulting dish, alongside hot rice tinctured with melted ghee, and accompanied by crunchy, fried arbi or colacasia, is commonly had at lunch. And if clapping for dancing girls produces any favourable results, then I daresay the universe is a ‘well tuned piano’. Striving for the perfect diasporic dahi, is then surely, a crucial part of the larger struggle to fit in. Kefir too, along with Nordic fermented milks, is widely believed to be beneficial to health, in playing ‘immuno-modulating roles’.
Combining some fabulous vegetables as diverse as yam, raw banana, bitter gourd, ash gourd, snake gourd, drumsticks, pumpkin, brinjal, and more conventional carrots, peas and beans, this dish manages to dexterously, and very imaginatively one might add, balance the complexity of the varying flavours and textures.
It is suggested that the starter cultures in several such fermented milks ‘stimulate secretion of immunoglobulins’ and that kefir, specifically, “is reported to inhibit the growth of pathogenic and spoilage microflora”.
A small amount of sour dahi, fresh coconut blended with cumin, a tablespoon of coconut oil (or any other), and curry leaves are added to the cooked and salted veggies. Very interestingly arguing for fermentation as ecology, Scott and Sullivan, in Ecology Of Fermented Foods (Human Ecology Review, 2008) point to kefir, an ‘insoluble polysaccharide with antibacterial and cicatrizing properties’ as as ‘stable probiotic food’: “kefir colonies provide a tangible visible sense of biodiversity that inhabit this fermented food. The simplicity of the recipe belies its complex nature; it is this very elementary composition that curries great favour, excuse the pun. Kefir points to a means of solving environmental problems by using diversity instead of eliminating it”.
Popular myth has it that Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers of the Mahabharata, innovated this dish while they were exiled.
They further argue for the critical linkages between life processes and ecological processes as demonstrated by fermented foods and that “the patterns of culture which last the longest may be those that mimic the dynamics of ecosystems”.
Fermentation, a natural process, is caused by wild bacteria and yeasts, which are ambient in the air across continents, as the authors point out; it is a natural resource and must be viewed critically in a broader ecological framework.
Chaas, or thin Indian buttermilk, whisked and watered down from sour dahi, is found across India, flavoured again, according to regional variation. I prefer the very simple southern versions, lightly salted and garnished with fresh curry leaves, or more intriguingly, with the tender leaves of an uncommon citric fruit called Dabbakaya, or Indian Grapefruit.
The more robust north Indian lassi, both sweet and salted, is as refreshing and pleasing as the thinner chaas, although the latter, is better suited for the hotter, and more humid climes.



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Comments to “List of indian probiotic foods”

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