Washing powder and Engine oil inside Papad! Food fraud exposed

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Papad or papadam, one of the staple additions in the daily diet routine of many Indians, may not be as safe as we are led to believe. Investigations by a leading Malayalam daily found adulterants such as engine oil and washing powder. The presence of cancer-causing carcinogens such as the chemical benzene forming from the constituent sodium benzoate has also been reported.

With a market share of approximately ₹1000 crore, papad products are popular all over India. Traditionally made by individual and organized businesses on a small scale, papad manufacturing has transformed with the advancement of the modern age. It would have been hard to imagine food adulteration in such an inexpensive and commonplace food item. But, reports by news organizations tell a different story.

A seasoned flatbread made from the dried dough of black gram bean (Uzhunnu Mavu) flour, papad is either fried in oil or cooked with dry heat. With the price of the constituent ingredients skyrocketing, some manufacturers have adopted illegal means of keeping input costs down and profits high. Poisonous adulterants like 2T Engine Oil and washing powders were used instead. Other cheap substitutes such as maida, which leads to obesity are also being used instead of black gram bean flour (uzhunnu maavu) and the usage of palm oil which has been linked to heart disease was reported.

When the mechanized process of manufacturing was scrutinized, journalists found that the plastics used in food handling were banned by the state government for being below the stipulated food grade quality. The employed informant went on to divulge that the resulting adulterated papad does not get spoiled even after 3 months retaining its original colour, whereas regular papad stays fresh for only 8-10 days.

This trend of adulteration in the papad industry seems to be on the rise steadily as sleuths of the Commissioner’s Task Force along with Food Safety Department officials had previously raided companies in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh and found that the manufacturers were using poor quality black gram powder and sodium carbonate to make papads boil quickly and easily.

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