New Delhi , Oct 18 : The festive season is here and Diwali is knocking on your door. The festival of lights also brings in its wake happiness, family get-togethers and lots of delicious food. Out of the varieties of foods available for Diwali celebrations, dry fruits and nuts are perhaps one of the most popular.
They are obtained by drying the healthy and clean fruits or nuts that are fully ripe. The dry fruit can be with or without stalks, shelled or unshelled, pitted or un-pitted or pressed into blocks.
"The final product can also contain permitted food additives but must conform to the microbial standards as stipulated by the FSSAI," says Dr. Saurabh Arora, Founder of Foodsafetyhelpline.com and Auriga Research and Arbro pharmaceuticals.
Dry fruits and nuts are packed with proteins, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, all of which are which are good for health. Some of the major health benefits of dry fruits and nuts are:
• Keep the heart in great shape: They are good for the heart as they prevent coronary heart disease. Cashews contain mono-unsaturated fatty acids and pistachios contain vitamin B6, both these nuts are cardio-protective. Moreover, dates can prevent atherosclerosis.
• Prevent anemia: They are rich in iron and help fight iron-deficiency anaemia, which is highly prevalent in Indian women.
• Maintain healthy body weight: They are packed with vitamins and minerals which help in the management of body weight.
• Reduces cholesterol: Pistachios contain high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good cholesterol" that helps to check low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad cholesterol", thereby keeping the heart healthy. Almonds are a rich source of omega-3-fatty acids which helps to lower LDL.
• Boon for diabetics: Nuts have a very low glycaemic index since they have high levels of unsaturated fatty acids and proteins and low carbs which make them ideal for diabetics.
-Role of FSSAI in Quality Control of Dry Fruits
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) prescribes standards for raw fruit and the same applies to dry fruits as these are prepared and processed from raw fruits. Quality control must be carried out throughout the food supply chain, from manufacturing to the consumer, as that ensures food safety.
Dry fruit manufacturers/processors therefore need to ensure that
• good hygienic practices are strictly followed during preparation of dry fruits
• good quality potable water is used in preparation to prevent contamination with microbes
• they are free of contaminants like chemicals, insecticides and pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses like diarrhoea
• they are free from foreign matter, like living/dead insects or their body fragments, mould and rodent contamination
• they are free from added colouring matter
• they are all of uniform colour, pleasant taste and flavour, free from odour, mustiness, rancidity and show no evidence of fermentation
The FSSAI guidelines as stated in the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011 ensure that the dry fruits are packaged properly so there is no chance of microbial contamination if the contents of the package are exposed accidently to moisture.
According to the FSSAI guidelines the primary packaging material must be of high quality, free from chemical contaminants, and made of food grade material, as dry fruits come into direct contact with the wrapper or packaging material.
-FSSAI Prescribes Safety Limits of Insecticides in Dry Fruits and Nuts
Since fruits and nuts are cultivated they can be subject to insecticide contamination as insecticides are used during cultivation. In this regard, the FSSAI has fixed the upper tolerance limits of several insecticides normally used on fruits and nuts as outlined in the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulations, 2011. Some insecticides which need to be within the FSSAI parameters for various dry fruits and nuts like walnuts and almonds include bromide, carbendazim, benomyl and chlorobenzilate.
-What Should You Do to Ensure You Buy the Best Product?
You should take advantage of the quality controls instituted by the FSSAI by checking the following on the packaging
• Nature of the food contents.
• Nutritional value of the food.
• Additives or preservatives used
• The date, month and year in which the dry fruit is packed
• Best before .....Months from packaging
• The FSSAI logo and licence number
Dr. Pawan Vats (Vice President - Food Safety at Auriga Research Pvt Ltd) says: "Reputed brands exercise all the precautions and necessary steps when packaging dry fruit to ensure good quality and so they make an attractive gift option during Diwali. However, there are dry fruits that are also sold packed for gifting purposes but without labels. This type of dry fruit must be avoided as there is no guarantee of quality."
"Most often, the end consumer of a gift wrapped plate or box of dry fruit, is not the primary buyer, as the dry fruit is gifted. Also there is almost no feed-back about the quality of the dry fruit received as gifts. If you wish to gift dry fruit then it is better to buy lose dry fruit because you can physically check for moisture, foreign matter like insects, mould, etc. and can even have them tested for quality if required. Once you are assured of the quality you can then have these gift wrapped," he concluded.
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