Food Adulteration

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Food Adulteration the act of adding or mixing something inferior, harmful, useless and unnecessary substance to food. In other words, any food item may be considered as adulterated if its nature and quality are not up to the standard. Unscrupulous traders normally adulterate food. In the process of adulteration, extraneous matters are directly added to food grains. Sands and crushed rock are added to increase weight. Mixing infested and damaged grains to good quality grains is a common practice. Sometimes grain polishing and husks are added to increase the weight. Nowadays, plastic beads that have the shape of food grains are often mixed with cereal grains. Coloured beads are added to the pulses. Sometimes water is sprayed over the grain stock to increase the weight.

Adulteration of fats and oils is easy and cannot be easily detected. Ghee (butter oil) is adulterated with hydrogenated oil and animal fats. Recently, because of the discovery of synthetic colours and flavours, any fat can be made to look like ghee and customers may easily be cheated. Til oil and coconut oil are often mixed with groundnut or cottonseed oil as the latter are cheaper. Mustard seeds are often mixed with argemone seeds and extracted together. Argemone oil contains an alkaloid-sanguinarine which is highly toxic and results in dropsy and paralysis. Adding allylisothiocyanate to soybean oil or palm oil gives the characteristic pungent smell of mustard oil. Mixing of palm oil with soybean oil is a common practice among dishonest traders for more profits.

The adulteration of milk is normally done with the addition of water and removal of fat. Sometimes extraneous substances like soybean and groundnut milk, wheat flour, etc are mixed. Selling diluted buffalo milk as cow milk is a common practice in rural areas. Addition of wheat flour, semolina, etc to milk powder is also common.

tea leaves may be adulterated with the addition of used tea leaves, sawdust, and dried and ground leaves other than tea leaves. Spices like chillies and turmeric powder are adulterated with the addition of lead pigment to impart brightness in colour and good appearance. Metanil yellow, a carcinogenic agent, is used for colouring turmeric powder. chilli powder is normally adulterated by adding brick powder. Excessive use of wheat flour in place of milk protein (chhana) in the preparation of sweetmeat is an example of adulteration. Use of carboxy methyl cellulose (CMC) in lieu of liquid glucose or sugar syrup in the preparation of soft drinks is an example of extortion. In the name of various fruit juices, imitation products are prepared by using artificial and prohibited ingredients instead of using original fruit juice. Recently, a special drink named mineral water is being prepared and marketed with little or no assurance of quality. [M Kabirullah]

See also food fortification.