Even as the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) has recommended lifting of the ban on three varieties — Ratan, Prateek and Mahateara — of the controversial Khesari dal terming them safe, the Union Health Ministry seems to be treading cautiously in the matter.
In view of negative reports regarding the dal, which was banned in the country way back in 1961 after its consumption was linked to a neurological disorder called lathyrism (paralysis in the legs), the Ministry has set up a panel and is seeking views from various representatives particularly those opposing the lifting of ban in this regard.
“Yes, following clearance from a research panel headed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for consumption of the Khesari dal, the FSSAI has recommended removal of ban and sought our final decision.
“But we are not in haste. We are seeking views from the stakeholders who are against the ban lift. Our final decision will based on the assessment of all the views,” a senior official from the Ministry said.
Considered as the poor man’s dal due to its low cost, those opposing the lifting of ban claim that it will not be a healthy move as there are high chances of pulse producer indulging in adulteration.
The FSSAI has gone solely by the ICMR’s latest recommendation on lifting the ban on sale and storage of the three varieties of Khesari dal in view of its high protein content and water use efficiency.
A hardy pulse crop, Khesari (Lathyrus odoratus) can grow in both drought as well as waterlogged conditions. The grain is known to produce a toxin called BAPN or beta-amino-propio-nitrile, which, when ingested, causes limb paralysis and bone deformity — the result of a neurological disorder called lathyrism. There is a debate in the scientific community over the safety of khesari dal. As per a report in the Indian Journal of Medicine, published in July 2013, the dal is “harmless as a part of a normal diet” and could even become a “prized commodity” for cardiovascular care. However, the Indian Institute of Toxicological Research is reported to be of the opinion that khesari dal’s consumption is “not safe”.