Whole wheat flour or atta (atta is the Hindi word for whole wheat flour and the Malayalam is Gothambu Mavu) is a major component of our food staple these days. The rampant adulteration of foodstuff has been a matter of concern, too. In the midst of this, a video claiming that the Aashirvaad brand of atta contains plastic has surfaced on social media. The ManoramaOnline Fact Check team got a request (on 8129100164) to ascertain if the contents of the video were factual.
The video carries the message that ‘this is very harmful to you and your children.’ A keyword search led us to the Twitter handle of another user who said the same thing. Below this post, ITC (which owns the Aashirvaad brand) has given a detailed reply to the charge. ITC says it is completely incorrect and factually wrong to say that their wheat contains plastic or rubber. They term it a bid to ‘destroy the trust’ reposed on them by consumers.
ITC goes on to say that the rubber-like property of wheat is induced by a protein, also called gluten. Gluten is present in grains like barley and rye, too. Gluten is what holds the wheat together, lending it elastic properties. The Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 mandates a 6% gluten on a dry mass basis (dry mass is when all the water content and moisture are removed).
The company said atta was prepared with due care and in accordance with the set guidelines. ITC would proceed legally against those spreading wrong messages, videos, and canards, the company said.
On further inquiry, Manorama Fact Check team also found the statement by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) saying that the atta was completely safe. Our team also secured another video by the executive director of the Protein Foods and Nutrition Development Association wherein he states that the atta is completely safe for human consumption. He goes on to add that the video on social media is misleading and wrong.
The Fact Check team contacted Food Safety officials and health experts to get clarity. They said gluten is a seed-storage protein. Such proteins store amino acids that the developing plant embryo can use as a source of energy. Gluten is found in bread, chappatis, biscuits, cakes etc. Gluten gives elasticity to the dough and helps in kneading. They said gluten is fit for everyone except those with specific gluten intolerance.