Thursday, July 2, 2009

Varakh - silver edible foil used in mithais (sweets)

A very enlightening read!


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 mis-labelling 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 should know. An animal's skin can make 20-25 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 practised 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 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 analysed 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 labelling 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.


jatinder Aggarwal said...

It is rubbish to say that all silver foils are non-vegetarian. Now a days many units have come up in India who are manufacturing silver foils by use of butter paper sheets instead of traditional intestine sheets. The hammering is done with the machines under controlled temperature. It seems that the tratitional system of manufacture of silver foils with the use of intestines sheets will be finished with the coming up of more and more automatic units for the manufacture of this product with the hammering machines.

Anonymous said...

Can you for certain say that the one in your hand has not touched animal process .If yes please educate how you are able to do it or accept that varak is still in the non veg catagory.

Anonymous said...

Varak per say is not nonveg but the fact the is that lot of animals are killed to make it:- this views varak in unbiased light:,-Vegetarians-and-Jains?&id=4622259

Anonymous said...

Firstly, there are a ton of local products in india which have no labeling whatsoever. Other than that, how would you put a "green dot" or a "maroon dot" on a laddoo? not unless u laminate it and print on the cover.

Regarding whether edible silver is vegetarian or not, the fact remains that it's edible "SILVER". The last time i checked, silver was considered vegetarian.

Lastly, vegetarians are biggest hypocrites on the planet. Those who really don't want to harm any other living being should not consume anything at all and not even breathe for there are scores of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that are eaten alive by these hypocrites in milk, veggies, fruits etc. Shoes are made from leather, skin of animals. Much of today
s scientific advances have been made by killing millions of lab animals. Those who think they are vegetarian because they don't want a living being killed are complete hypocrites and morons of the highest degree.

Raziya Mohamedali said...

I liked your reasoning and totally agree with you. Vegetarians are also eating living things in the form of vegetables and as you said in many indirect ways, too.

Thank you for your input.

Anonymous said...

The author who has made the survey is correct to a large extent.
But now a days, varak is being manufactured by automatic machines. The major producers of this varka by automatic machines where no animal skin is used are available in the market with the brand names like: Silver Star Silver leaves, Catch , Baba.The varka producaed with machines is totally vegetarian having silver purity of 99.9 %. If any body require further verification of machine made silver leaves(varak), you can contact me at Ph No 9810132210.

Jatinder Aggarwal

Anonymous said...

The issue is attached with the one's belief.nobody does anything without strong belief. Our actions eminates from our belief.It depends from person to person how. one look at it

It is an information to know that automatic machines are being mfg to produce silver foil. The question remains- how you will ensure the foil is from a trusted source?

If varakh made from machine are cheaper , then and then only it will be used. Otherwise it will not find any buyer when cheap handmade varakh are available.
Secondaly if lot of human labour is involved in doing the varkh, then what will happen to them.
Better way would be to educate them slowly slowly and provide them machines by forming co operative societies and make them organised.

vinod said...

It is true that 90% silver foils are non-vegetarian. But as of today some units have come up in India who are manufacturing silver foils by use of specialised paper sheets instead of traditional intestine sheets. The hammering is done with fully computerised and automated machines under controlled temperature.

Vinod K. Aggarwal(09350185008)

Manoj said...

This is an informative article and thank you, although I knew about it well before and stopped the intake of varak.

Vegetarians are at the very least but still are hypocrites.. and to fix this situation is simple. Vegetarians who are vaishnavas should only consume "Prasadama" of Krishna. Food should be offered to God and whats left should be consumed. Krishna said that he will accept flowers, fruits, water, served with love and devotion. Follow link

So in this regard, when plants which are living are killed, the Karma that goes with it is nullified by Krishna.

To the none vaishnavas, please do not criticize. You follow your way of life or religion.. each one is on the path to God, some will take longer some will go faster but help each other. To Raziya Mohamedali, please study the scriptures of those being criticized before making a general assumption.

Manoj said...

A little info I found.. please go to the link..

Raziya Mohamedali said...

Thank you Manoj for your very objective comments and I visited the url above that you've published and thank you for that, too. It was enlightening. I was not being critical of any religious beliefs when I posted that Varakh article to which you've written your comments, but, just informing whoever read my blog about it.

Again, thank you all for your various comments on this topic. I really appreciate them.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Jatinder and Mr.Raziya,

I look at it in 'Cost" point of view only keeping Veg-Non veg labels or Religious aspects aside.
Can anyone tell me what is the cost at which this synthetically made VARKA is available on square meter basis??? please.
The point is even if we say that the modern machines are able to STAMP silver foil to say a nanometer thick
Looking at Specific gravity of silver which is 10490 kg/m3 DOES IT JUSITFY the price at which these Mithaiwala's purchase and apply on sweets?
My question is IS IT REALLY PURE SILVER THEN?? or Alumnium and HAS ANYBODY LOOKED INTO HAZARDS OF ALUMINIUM ON HUMAN BODY? even if we agree for SAKE of argument that consuming of Silver is 100% safe.
Does it not come under FDA??? I donot know.