Kaju Katli

Did you know the “Silver Varakh” used in sweets could be injurious to your health?

Kaju Katli
Kaju Katli with silver varakh

Did you know the “Silver Varakh” could be injurious to your health? Judge for yourself and let us know after reading below articles.

 Mithai Silver Varakh – is it vegetarian or non-vegetarian? 

In India, by law, every food item has to have a green dot on it, if it is vegetarian – and a maroon dot, if it is non-vegetarian. If a manufacturer is found to be cheating by mislabeling his product, the sentence is many years in jail. So, how have the mithai (sweets) people not been arrested so far? Milk has been treated as vegetarian to appease the powerful dairy lobby, but the silver foil or ‘varakh’ on each mithai cannot by any stretch of imagination be considered vegetarian.

‘Beauty without Cruelty’, a Pune-based NGO that investigates into product ingredients, has produced a remarkable booklet on the varakh industry. Here is their report on how it is made.
The varakh-makers select animals at the slaughterhouse. Each animal is felt for the softness of its skin before it is killed. This means that a substantial number of goat, sheep and cattle are killed specifically for the industry. Their skins are soaked in filthy, infested vats for 12 days to dehair them. Then, workers peel away the epidermal layer, which they call jhilli, just under the top layer of the skin in a single piece. These layers are soaked for 30 minutes in another decoction to soften them and left to dry on wooden boards. Once these are dry, the workers cut out square pieces 19 cm by 15 cm. These pieces are made into pouches called auzaar and stacked into booklets. Each booklet has a cover of thick lamb suede called khol. Thin strips of silver called alagaa are placed inside the pouches. Workers now hit the booklet with wooden mallets for three hours to beat the silver inside into the ultra-thin varakh of a thickness less than one micron called ‘999’. This varakh is then sent to sweet shops.

Here are the statistics that you hould know. An animal’s skin can make 20-25 pieces/pouches only. Each booklet has 360 pouches. One booklet is used to make 30,000 varakh pieces – less than the daily supply of a single big mithai shop.
About 12,500 animals are killed for one kg of varakh. Every year, 30,000 kg of varakh (30 tonnes) are eaten on mithai. 2.5 crore booklets are made by varakh companies that keep their slaughterhouse connection secret. But the truth is that not only is this industry killing animals furiously, much of the animal tissue that the booklet is made of remains in the varakh.
Each Jain knows in his heart that varakh is non-vegetarian. But they still use these dreadful items of mass destruction to decorate the idols of Jain tirthankars. How amazing that the idols of those that preached and practiced strict non-violence to all creatures should now be covered with slaughterhouse derived silver foils. Jains are the biggest buyers of the varakh industry. Many try to bluff themselves by saying that the varakh is machine-made.

‘Beauty Without Cruelty’ has done a thorough investigation and found that there is not a single machine- made varakh piece in this country (or even the world).
On the web, there is one letter from a person, Jalandhra, claiming that he has a company which has “fully automatic machines manufactured with German collaboration to beat silver pieces in between a special Indian manufactured paper in a hygienic and controlled atmosphere run round the clock by qualified Engineers and experienced R&D team”. Initially, we were importing the special paper from Germany.
But when I followed this up, no factory of the given name, or even address, was not found.The production of varakh is done mainly in north India: Patna, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Gaya (which is a Buddhist holy centre), in Bihar; Kanpur, Meerut and Varanasi (the holy city of Hindus) in Uttar Pradesh; and Jaipur, Indore, Ahmedabad and Mumbai. The booklets come to them from the slaughterhouses of Delhi, Lucknow, Agra and Ratlam.

Not only is varakh non-vegetarian, it is also very bad for your body – whether you are vegetarian or not. The silver cannot be digested; therefore, there are no benefits from its consumption . A study done in November 2005 by the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre in Lucknow on varakh says that the silver foil available in the market has toxic and carcinogenic metals in the thin silver foil, nickel, lead, chromium and cadmium damages body. Also over half of the analyzed silver foils had lower silver purity than the 99.9 per cent purity stipulated by the prevention of food adulteration act of India. When such foil enters into the body, it releases heavy metals that can lead to cancer. The report also details the unhygienic conditions in which workers put silver in small leather bags and beat it into foil in filthy shops.

It is time we refused varakh-covered mithai, fruit or paan. Mithai shops should be taken to court for not labeling their products non-vegetarian, before selling them. I request everyone reading this article to strictly avoid the sweets that have a silver work on them. They are purely Non – Vegetarian.

ISKCON also confirms their non – vegetarian nature.
From: Dr. Sulekh Jain, E-Mail : scjain@earthlink.net, Houston, Texas ,USA,281 494 7656

Other links researched:

Tv9 Gujarat – Mixing in silver foil : Ahmedabad (in gujarati)

Tv9 Gujarat – May be silver foil on sweets harm your health !

(in gujarati)

Suggest making Mithai at home without the Varakh. See recipe and example of “Mava ni Boi without Varakh” 

This fish shaped dessert is very popular among the indian parsi community. The dessert is like Indian Mawa Mithai. It is molded in the shape of a fish because the fish is a symbol for fertility and good luck. Each boi is 5 inches long and packaged in a decorative gift bag. It can be sliced and eaten as dessert. The Badam ni Boi is just like a Mava ni Boi but is made with almond marzipan. The price for either boi is $15 + $5 for shipping in the USA. Online payment by Paypal and major credit card. We can work out the cost of mailing if you wish to order several pairs at one address. I will be happy to take your inquiries, questions and order. I will need the order 2 weeks in advance. Please contact me with your order, email me at Rita@ParsiCuisine.com
This fish shaped dessert is very popular among the indian parsi community. The dessert is like Indian Mawa Mithai. It is molded in the shape of a fish because the fish is a symbol for fertility and good luck.  Click on image for recipe.

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