Utterly Butterly Disaster: Adulterants In Butter


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In the words of Julia Childs, “With enough butter, anything is good.”

Undoubtedly, a little bit of butter can amp up any meal. Whether it’s on paranthas, simple toast, soups, or gravies, there’s something remarkable about what butter
adds to a meal. Butter has been used as a spread and a cooking fat for centuries, and is an important edible fat in regions like Northern America and Northern Europe where cattle are the primary dairy animals.

Butter is a high-energy food with approximately 715 calories per 100 grams. One tablespoon of butter (14 grams) has roughly 100 calories, which is about the same as one medium banana. It contains a high content of butterfat or milk fat (at least 80%), but has a low protein content. Besides this, butter is rich in vitamins A, D, E, B12, K2, phosphorous, and calcium. However, it is only natural that we be wary of the butter we use today, with instances of adulteration on the rise.

Caveat Emptor

Common adulterants found in butter include mutton fat, beef fat, potato pulp starch, vegetable oils, hydrogenated fat, jaggery, soft paraffin, and margin. Cases of adulterated butter have been on the rise in India. In one particular instance, the Mumbai police seized 1000 kg of spurious butter, which was packed in Amul packaging. In another horrifying incident, a gang from Gujarat was arrested for adulterating 25 kg of butter with 15 kg of vanaspati ghee.

Ways to detect adulteration in butter

Palm test: Place a small amount of butter on your palm; if it starts to melt by itself due to body heat, it is pure butter.

Heat test: Another simple way to check the purity of butter is to heat a teaspoon of butter in a vessel. If the butter is pure, it will melt immediately and turn a dark brownish colour. If the butter is adulterated, it will turn light yellow in colour.

Double-boiler method Another method of checking for adulteration in butter is by melting some butter cubes and coconut oil in a glass jar using the double-boiler method, and then placing the jar in the fridge. If the butter and coconut oil solidify into different layers, then the butter is adulterated.

Test using HCl: Another way to detect adulteration in butter is by heating a tablespoon of butter in a glass test tube. Add an equal amount of concentrated HCl with a pinch of sugar and shake the mixture well. If the mixture turns pink or red, it implies that the butter has been adulterated with hydrogenated oil or other substandard ingredients or chemicals.

Iodine test for starch in butter:- add a small quantity of iodine solution to butter placed in a bowl of water. If the solution turns blue in colour, the butter is adulterated with starch. Despite starch being present in small quantities in a variety of foods we consume on a daily basis, such as bread, rice, and potatoes, it can be harmful to our health when consumed in large quantities. Regular and unrestricted consumption of starch has been related to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain. Additionally, consumption of starch in large quantities can have detrimental effects on blood sugar.

The Bottom Line:

Butter is low in lactose and is generally regarded as healthy, when consumed in moderation. However, when consumed excessively, it may result in weight gain. All in all, while butter may not be the ultimate health food, it has become an essential ingredient for our cooking and baking purposes. Therefore, dear readers, while consuming it in moderation, it is advised that the aforementioned tests be conducted to avoid consuming adulterated butter.

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