INDIA – Delhi government, India’s capital territory, is urging religious places in the national capital to procure Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI’s) Blissful Hygienic Offering to God (BHOG) certification for their ‘prasad’-sacred food and ‘langar’- community kitchen, from the food safety department.

BHOG is an initiative of FSSAI recently launched to encourage Places of Worship (POW) to adopt and maintain food safety and hygiene as well as convey food safety messages through such places to the people to follow as responsible citizens.

The city’s Food Safety commissioner, Neha Bansal, informed that Delhi food safety department has recently issued ‘BHOG’ certificates to Akshardham Temple and Sai Baba temple in Najafgarh after a training and audit exercise.

“We are in touch with several religious places like temples and gurudwaras in the city, including ISKCON Temple in East of Kailash, for their participation in the project and to ensure the best quality of prasad and hygiene practices there,” Bansal said.

Officials from the food safety department have been meeting people in managements of religious places to encourage them to obtain BHOG certificates and get the food safety registration and license.

According to PTI, the designated officer of the department, Saurabh Sharma, explained that it’s basically an awareness initiative in which they encourage management of religious places to adopt best practices of preparing Prasad and food and its handling by the cooks and workers.

The food safety registration and license serve as a mark of quality.

Sharma added that the department identifies religious places and then undertakes the ‘BHOG’ certification process after discussion with its management.

As part of the certification process, the cooks and food handlers at identified religious places undergo a one-day training with FSSAI-impaneled trainers about various aspects of maintaining hygiene while manufacturing and handling food items.

The training module includes instructions regarding general cleanliness, use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) by cooks and food handlers, and regular medical examination of the workers.

After the training, the religious place is meticulously scrutinized for any shortcomings, and required adjustments are suggested. Finally, an audit is carried out after which the ‘BHOG’ certificate is issued.

The department is also urging religious places to opt for ‘BHOG’ certification due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has brought matters of hygiene and cleanliness into focus.