FW: The source of silver foil on sweets (fwd)

Shrisha Rao shrirao1 at MCHSI.COM
Sun Nov 24 17:22:54 CST 2002

On Wednesday, November 20, 2002, at 10:42 AM, Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:

> A couple of years ago, Indian Airlines, the domestic air-carrier of
> India had issued instructions to its suppliers to supply sweet without
> silverfoil called VARAKH.  Do you know why ??? Can't we follow this

> VARAKH is a silver foil and we have no 2nd questions on this, but to
> prepare
> this VARAKH important parts of the CATTLE/OX is made use of.
> Intestines of
> Cattle/OX are obtained from the slaughterhouse. This is obtained after

> Intestines are cut into small pieces and then are bound together as
> pages in
> a notebook.  A silver block is placed in the middle of these bound
> intestines, and the whole thing is placed in a leather bag and sealed.
> Experts, who know how to make VARAKH, pound the bag with wooden
> sticks, till
> the entire bag flattens out. The silver block would by this time be
> turned
> into silver foil.

I have seen this message off and on for the past few years (I actually
have an archived copy dated June 19, 1999), and am not convinced that
it is anything but a recent urban legend created by some mischievous
person(s) who initiated chain mail.  If someone has hard evidence (not
a vague say-so), I would be interested.

I have zero training in metallurgy or allied sciences, but it seems
obvious that silver foil of microscopic thinness (much less than the
width of a human hair) such as used with sweets cannot be created
simply by pounding with wooden sticks.  Some industrial process is
surely involved?

> Now the question is "Why the
> intestines of the cattle/ox?
> Why not something else?"
> The reason behind using the intestines of the cattle/ox for preparing
> the
> VARAKH is because of the elasticity of the intestines. They do not get
> cut
> even after a severe pounding.

Really?  Now keep in mind that silver is a metal -- not as hard as iron
or steel, to be sure, but a metal nonetheless.  I would stake my life
on saying that "a severe pounding" such as would flatten metallic
silver into microscopic thin sheets would easily reduce organic
products like bovine entrails to paste or powder.  The explanation is
therefore not convincing.

> This aspect is brought out in the magazine "Beauty without cruelty"
> and the
> Television show of Maneka Gandhi, "Heads and Tails". In India, on an
> average

There are a television show and a magazine as claimed, but
significantly, no dates or references are given.  (One of the
characteristics of urban legends is the vague appeal to authority --
"Microsoft has released this information about such-and-such virus,"
etc.) The "Beauty Without Cruelty" website (www.bwcindia.org) does not
have any information about silver foil.  Also, why begin the piece with
a reference (also vague) to Indian Airlines, rather than saying this up

> an estimate indicates that 2,75,000 kilos of "VARAKH" is consumed. Can
> you
> estimate how many cattle/ox are sacrificed for just a bit of taste?
> If you
> are surprised as I am, after reading this article please inform as
> many as
> possible so as to ensure that we unknowingly don't consume beef.  I
> would

How wonderful -- a person with the missionary zeal to "inform as many
people as possible" -- one has so few of those these days.

By the way, the legend seems to have gained significant currency all
over the place.  The recent book `The Myth of the Holy Cow' by D.N. Jha
lists a variation involving "steaming intestines of freshly slaughtered
animals" (no need, apparently, to cut the guts into small pieces and
bind them "as pages in a notebook" -- sorry, Maneka Gandhi & BWC).  The
source cited is "Bindu Jacob, `More to it all than meets the Eye', The
Hindu, June 5, 2001 (a news item based on a publication of the Animal
Welfare Board of India under the Ministry of Social Justice and
Empowerment, Government of India)."


Shrisha Rao

> like to thank the authors of this article in Taranga, a weekly
> magazine in
> Kannada, for enlightening us.
> Hope u stop eating beef now !!

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