Food adulteration is the act of diminishing the quality of food or food ingredients by adding, manipulating, or substituting them with cheaper and inferior materials. Owing to high demand, lack of proper storage and packaging facilities, and desire for a quick profit, food adulteration in today’s day and age is rampant and we as consumers have to be very careful of the food that we intake.
This article discusses the commonly found adulterants in common food items used in our kitchens.
70% of milk samples acquired by the food safety authority across the country did not meet the standards.
The most common adulterants used in milk are table sugar and starch, which are used to increase the solid content and density of the milk. The quality of milk is then added to this mixture, which makes it difficult to detect the quality of milk through the lactometer test. Other adulterants like benzoic acid and salicylic acid are used to increase the shelf-life of milk. Sometimes, formalin is also used to preserve the milk for a long time. In some cases, soap is also added to the milk to make it look thicker. These adulterants are extremely harmful to our health and can cause serious health issues like food poisoning, gastrointestinal complications, impairments, heart problems, and cancer.
Metanil yellow is the most common food adulterant found in cooking oil. It is also used in cosmetics, food, and pharmaceuticals, which enhances the product colour and texture but compromises the safety of the substance. Metanil yellow is a toxic substance and it can cause severe damage to the intestines, and even the brain.
Another common adulterant used in cooking oil is palm oil. Some adulterated oils contain up to 70% palm oil. Palm oil is harmful to one’s health as it has a high triglyceride content, which can increase the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
Grains and Cereals:
Ergot is a common food adulterant in grains and cereals like wheat and rice. Ergot is a fungus that commonly grows on rye and wheat. A severe reaction to ergot is called ergotism (symptoms include spasms, diarrhoea, mania, and psychosis). Apart from that, ergot can also cause nausea, vomiting, and gastric pain in the extremities.
Spices are one of the most heavily adulterated food items. Like oil, metanil yellow is used to enhance the colour of turmeric powders; papaya seeds are used in black pepper; and brick powder has also been found in red chilli powder. All of these adulterants can cause giddiness, weakness, indigestion, and, in some cases, cancer.
Commonly used adulterants in coffee are chicory, caramel, date seeds, and tamarind seeds. These are mixed with the coffee beans before being roasted. Once ground, it becomes difficult to separate the ingredients. This reduces the quality of the coffee significantly and can also cause diarrhoea and stomach disorders.
These are the most commonly used food ingredients in our daily lives, and unfortunately, they are also the most adulterated ingredients. Consumer mistrust is growing with brands and their labels. While we, as consumers, can resort to a few tests for adulteration, stricter laws must be implemented to ensure an ethical and organic supply of food ingredients for our health and safety.