The former, made from cashew, is triple-distilled and has been declared as a heritage drink in the coastal state. The latter is made from the flowers of the Mahua tree.
The country’s apex food regulator has begun the work related to the standardisation of these spirits. It is also looking at taking these standards to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for international approval.
Pawan Kumar Agarwal, chief executive officer, FSSAI, said that traditional drinks were already under its purview, and the apex regulator had begun the work with regards to the standards for drinks like feni and mahua.
“Right now, feni is not included in the list, but we have decided to take up these drinks as a separate category itself,” he said, adding that after the formulation of the standards, the consumers will be more assured about the quality of the product.
Reacting to the development, S L Naik, manager, Cazcar Heritage Distiller, Goa, said, “If FSSAI is working on the standards for feni, it will be a very good move. It will help in improving the quality of the drink. Moreover, it will help in preventing people from indulging in the adulteration of the drink.”
Feni has also obtained the geographical indication mark (GI) from the GI Registry, Government of India.
Parashram J Patil, social scientist and chairman, Institute for Natural Resources, Kolhapur, stated that feni and mahua were sensitive food items and have a lot of health benefits. It goes through various processes, and hence, quality standards become an issue.
“This is a welcome move by FSSAI. The standards for feni will ensure its quality, and as India is a global leader in the world cashew economy, such quality by-products can help in boosting the local economy as well,” he added.
The recent report by the parliamentary panel on health also urged the regulator to take up the issue. It added that in a large country like India, there is diversity in food, beverages and eating habits. Different regions of the country serve different kinds of local beverages, which are a reflection of their local culture and flavours.
“Local drinks, such as feni, has been accorded heritage drink status by the state government. Drinks made from the mahua flower and other local spices are popular among the tribal people, and their popularity is also growing among the urban masses. Such local beverages have been commercialised by private companies and are being sold in the market,” it added.
The Committee observed that there were no uniform standards for the formulation of such traditional drinks or beverages, and there were no guidelines to regulate and monitor the production process of these drinks.
It recommended that FSSAI should set standards for these local beverages. Standards for the alcoholic content in the traditional beverages will ensure the supply of quality drinks and prevent instances of alcohol poisoning.
“There is a need to standardise the use of ingredients and regulate the production, especially for local traditional heritage drinks, so that these local drinks are safe for consumption, and at the same time, are commercially competitive and at par with international drinks,” the report said.