What is adulteration?
Do you know what adulteration is? Some of us might not know what it is but we are constantly forced to consume adulterated food on a daily basis. Adulteration usually refers to adding impure matter to the food or drink which is intended to be sold so as to increase the quantity of the product. Adulterated food is impure and unsafe. This is done to increase profit but adulterated food causes serious threats to human life. For instance, when we buy chili powder from the market, only half of it will be actually chili powder and the rest will be wood powder or brick powder. Something that resembles the original product is added to it to increase the quantity of it. This way the shopkeeper is making more money by selling less quantity of the actual product. I do not mean that all shopkeepers or manufactures are the same, there are few honest people as well. But, i is difficult to find them.
Is Food Adulteration punishable in India?
Yes, food adulteration is a punishable offense in India. We had laws governing the same from the past itself. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act was passed in 1954. However, this act was repealed by the Food Safety and Standard Act passed by the parliament in 2006. Penalties and punishments are imposed based on the seriousness of the offense. One can get three months to six years imprisonment with monetary penalties if the offense is serious. Even though we have proper laws in our country, people still do food adulteration. Reasons for it is that they can bribe the officers, even if caught can come out with the help of a good lawyer and so on. This system has to be changed and laws have to be implemented without any bias.
Which are the top food products prone to Adulteration in India?
Adulteration is done to every possible product so that the profit can be maximised. People are so money minded that they do not think about the health of their fellow citizens. In India, mostly adulteration is found in milk, ghee, vegetable oil, masala powders and spices, ice creams, honey, coffee, and tea leaves, flour, and food grains, sweets etc. Apart from these products, grape wines, juices of fruits etc are adulterated in most of the countries. The below list will make you understand the adulterants used in different products.
Food Item - Adulterant
(1) Milk - Water
(2) Ghee - Vanaspathi
(3) Ice Cream - Washing Powder
(4) Chili Powder - Brick Powder
(5) Coffee - Tamarind/Date Seed
(6) Honey - Molasses Sugar
(7) Sugar - Chalk Powder
What are the Harmful effects of Food Adulteration?
Earlier people used to grown the food items they require in their courtyard or field itself. And almost every spices, masala powders or dishes were made at home itself. Hence food adulteration was not there and so is the issues and effects associated with it. Today all of us are busy and we depend upon instantly made food items. First of all, food is adulterated and if we buy these packed food items which contain preservatives, it is definitely going to harm us. Let us learn in detail how food adulteration can harm our health.
Increases the impurity in food: Food adulteration increases the impurity in the foods items thus making it imperfect to consume. Consumption of adulterated food for long will have both short term and long term impact on our health. Why do we have to buy impure and poor quality stuff by paying our hard earned money? Impure food is unsafe to consume so it is better to produce stuff as far as possible or to get stuff from organic centers or directly from the farmers.
Lack of nutritional value: Adulterated food is of low quality and has no or very less nutritional values. Also, certain adulterated food has a different taste too. By purchasing and consuming adulterated food, we are compromising on our health and taste. To stay away from these and to have nutritional food for your family, we need to start working. Create a small vegetable garden on your balcony or terrace, so that you can have some fresh products.
Leads to various diseases: Due to the consumption of adulterated food, we can get various chronic diseases like Liver Disorder, Diarrhoea, Stomach Disorder, Lahyrism Cancer, Vomiting, Dysentery, Cancer, Joint Pain, Heart Diseases, Food Poisoning etc. The minerals, chemicals, and poor quality substances added to the food are responsible for these health conditions which we might have to undergo in future. Some adulterated foods can even lead to abortion or a brain damage. Young children consuming adulterated food for long will have issues in conceiving.
How to identify adulterated food?
We might not always get the time to check whether the food product is adulterated due to our busy lives. Also, it is not easy to find food adulteration in certain cases. What I would suggest is it is better to check and test the food for adulterants as far as possible as it has a direct impact on our health. Let us see some tips and tricks to find out adulterants in certain food items.
(a) Milk: Pour a small drop of milk in a slanting surface. See whether the drop leaves a white trail, if so, it is pure milk and if there is no white trail, you can be sure that it is adulterated.
(b) Ice Cream: The main adulterant used in ice cream is washing soda. To find this, add a few drops of lemon juice to it. If it starts to froth, then it indicates the presence os washing soda in the ice cream.
(c) Sugar: To find out whether chalk powder is added to the sugar, take a clear glass of water and add a spoon of sugar to it. Unadulterated sugar will sink to the bottom while the chalk powder will remain at the surface of the water itself.
(d) Black Pepper Seeds: Papaya seeds are the adulterants used in the case of black pepper seeds. Add a few pepper seeds to alcohol, you can see Papaya seeds will sink.
(e) Mustard Seeds: Take few mustard seeds and crush them. Actual mustard seeds will have a yellow color inner area whereas its adulterant argemone seeds are not yellow in its inner surface.
What can we do?
After reading this article you might be wondering what can we do to get rid of food adulteration or at least to save us from the harmful effects of food adulteration. The best steps to avoid food adulteration is to start cultivating ourselves, which is not very practical in our busy lives. However, I am listing a few measures which we can practice in order to safeguard our health from food adulterants.
(a) Always go for branded products, especially the ones with ISI mark. Still, if you doubt in its quality, don't just keep quiet. File a complaint against the company or inform the company authorities about it. Only if we consumers start reacting, we can put an end to this solution.
(b) Try to buy vegetables and fruits from organic markets or directly from the farmer. I am not sure how far the so-called organic products are good, but you can at least be safe when you are directly buying it from the farmer.
(c) We all have limited space, but within that limited space, if we can cultivate few easily growing veggies, it can help us a lot. It is not only healthy but saves us on the cost also. Balconies, courtyard or terrace should be selected for such purposes.
(d) Instead of buying ready-made masala powders, try to make it ourselves. You get to buy dried chilly from the market, grind it rather than going behind packed powders.
This article summarizes adulteration of foodstuffs and its effects. Olive oil is increasingly available and used in India and it is also commonly adulterated with soybean, sunflower and sesame oil. Apart from checking each ingredient individually, it is not easy to identify adulteration. Purchasing from a regular vendor, choosing a standard brand etc helps to reduce the chances of buying adulterated products. Organic foodstuffs are expensive and pooling individual orders within families, neighbors and friends in apartments enable us to get some discount on these organic products.