Vark, Varak or Varakh is a foil of very pure silver and is used for garnishing Indian sweets. The silver is edible, though flavorless. Large quantities of ingested elemental silver can cause argyria, but the use of vark is not considered harmful to the body, since the quantities involved in normal use are minuscule.
Vark is made by pounding silver into a sheet a few micrometres thick, and backed with paper for support; this paper is peeled away before use. It is extremely brittle and breaks into smaller pieces if touched. Vark sheets are laid or rolled over Indian sweets made from dates, nuts and various fruit and vegetable based rolls or sheet candies.
Vegetarian lobbyists claim that vark is hammered between animal fat or hide and is thus a non-vegetarian product.
The silver-topped sweet is even served as prashad in many temples and on auspicious and religious occasions. Varakh is also used in flavoured syrups as in Kesar (saffron) syrup.
If one observes Vark under a microscope one will find traces of blood, stools and saliva of a cattle or an ox. Vark is not derived from an animal source. However, a crucial material of animal origin, ox-gut, is used in its manufacture. This ox-gut is obtained from the slaughterhouse.
The intestine (ox-gut), smeared with blood and mucus, is pulled out from the slaughtered animal by the butcher at the slaughterhouse, and sold for the specific purpose. This is then taken away to be cleaned and used in the manufacture of Vark.
Usually 4 foils are used per kilograms of sweets and the ox-gut of one cow is used to produce foil for approximately 4,000 kilograms of sweets. It is estimated that the average consumption of sweets by a middle class family of four in India is about 100 kilograms per year.
It surely does make for a pretty presentation, though it doesn't actually add to the taste, does it? It really helps devotees to know what not to consume, let alone offer in Bhoga or Prasad.