Just over 18.5 per cent of the samples of idli batter collected from across the State, and tested in food analysis labs, have showed some level of contamination.
About 57 packets contained coliform pathogens, commonly known to cause diarrhoea and indicating contaminated water sources. A small number was specifically identified as E.coli, and fewer contained salmonella.
These pathogens cause, among others, urinary tract infections, gastroenteritis, and typhoid. Food inspectors across the state lifted a total of 340 samples of idli batter of different brands from over Tamil Nadu in February -2011.
Dr.R.T. Porkaipandian,Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Chennai told,“We ensured that we collected a good mix of samples from the urban centres, towns and rural areas,” according to These were sent to the food analysis lab at the King Institute of Preventive Medicine in Guindy for testing.
He has also added that,“The results were not as bad as we expected them to be. We took up the case after media published stories that a non-governmental organisation had found faecal matter in rice batter,”
Recently, CONCERT, a unit of Consumer and Civic Action group, claimed they found 55 per cent of the batter samples collected from Chennai had failed quality tests.
He added that wherever the samples have been contaminated, the local health inspectors have been instructed to check whether water standards have been met, and the food products are being prepared in a hygienic manner.They have also been instructed to chlorinate water sources and local body health officials must test food handlers before they are given licences.
While preparing idlies, the steaming process may be sufficient to kill some of the bacteria, the process of making dosas, on the other hand, does not expose the batter to heat for a sufficient period. “Salmonella will not die even in the heating process,” explained K. Sadasivam, Joint Director(PFA). He has also advised to use the purchased batter within two or three days.