How does food adulteration impact our health?

12 Aug 2015
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How to Detect Adulterants in Food Items?

While scrolling down my Facebook timeline last evening I came across this picture. For people like me who didn't get what it is in first look - this is your favourite Maggi after facing a ban in many states in India owing to the presence of harmful adulterants in the instant noodles. Sad? So am I. After all, this is one noodle that every kid from the 80s and 90s and even 2000s has grown up eating. This brings me to the fact that, it's not just Maggi but many other household food items that we enjoy eating are actually adulterated with stuff that is not suitable for human consumption.

 

What is food adulteration?

Adulteration of food is defined as the addition or subtraction of any substance to or from food, so that the natural composition and quality of the original food substance is affected. It is difficult for the consumer to detect the extent of adulteration. Adulteration of foods can either be intentional, unintentional or natural.  

Effects Of Food Adulteration

Food adulteration can have a range of harmful effects on health. It can not only lead to toxicity in the body but also can lead the body to paralysis or eventually death. Thus, it becomes very important to detect these adulterants. Some of the adulterants are highly toxic for the body leading to heart failure, liver disorders, kidney disorders & many more. Adulteration also effects the quality of the product leading hindrance to the nutritive value of the product thus leading to nutritive deficiency in our body.  

Here are simple household tests to help you detect the presence of common food adulterants in daily diet:- -

Turmeric Powder or Besan/Dals:

Turmeric 

Besan   -

Adulterants: Metanil yellow, kesari dal. 

Test: Dissolve spoonful of turmeric powder or besan in 20 ml of lukewarm water. Add any acid easily available at home like lemon (acetic acid), oranges (citrus acid) or any ascorbic acid (vitamin C fruits). If the water turns pink, violet or purple, it is adulterated. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: It's highly carcinogenic and can lead to stomach disorders if consumed continuously.

 

Mustard Seeds:

- 

Adulterants: Argemone seeds 

Test: When pressed or crushed, argemone seeds are white inside and have a rough outer surface , while mustard seeds are smooth on the outside and are yellow on the inside. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: It can cause severe stomach and liver disorders

 

Ice Cream:

 

 

Adulterants: Washing powder 

Test: Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on the ice cream. If it starts to froth and bubble, it has washing powder in it. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: It can cause severe stomach and liver disorders

 

Black Pepper

 

Adulterants: Papaya seeds 

Test: Put a sample in alcohol. Pepper seeds will sink & papaya seeds will float as they are lighter. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: It can cause severe liver problems.

 

Coffee Powder

 

Adulterants: Tamarind seeds, chicory powder 

Test: Gently sprinkle coffee powder on the surface of water in a glass. The coffee will float whereas chicory will start to sink within a few seconds. Falling chicory powder will leave a trail of colour behind due to the large amounts of caramel it contains. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: These can cause diarrhea, stomach disorders, giddiness and severe joint pains.

 

Sugar

 

Adulterants: Chalk powder 

Test: Mix a sample with a glass of water. Sugar will dissolve chalk powder will settle down.On dissolving in water it gives a smell of ammonia. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Highly toxic to human body.

 

Honey

Adulterants: Water / sugar solution. 

Test: A cotton wick dipped in pure honey when lit with matchbox /lighter will burn giving its purity but if it is adulterated the water content won't allow it to burn.

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Affects the quality of the product.

 

Bajra

 

Adulterants: Ergot infested bajra 

Test: Soak in water all the adulterants will float. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Affects the quality of the product

 

Sago

 

Adulterants: Talcum powder/sand

Test: Burn the sago, if pure it will swell & hardly leave any ash. If adulterated will leave behind good quantity of ash. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Highly toxic to human body

 

Cloves

 

 

Adulterants: Coated with mineral oil 

Test: If coated with mineral oil it gives kerosene like smell 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Highly toxic to human body.

 

Common Salt

 

Adulterants: Chalk powder 

Test: Mix a sample with a glass of water. Salt will dissolve chalk powder will settle down. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Highly toxic to human body

 

Lodized Salt

Adulterants: Common salt 

Test: Cut a piece of potato, add salt & wait for minute & add few drops of lemon juice. In case of iodized salt blue colour will appear &    if common salt no colour will appear. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Affects the quality of the product

 

Green Peas

 

Adulterants: Artificially coloured 

Test: Take 250ml of water in a beaker soak peas into it. Clear separation of colour in water shows adulteration. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Toxic to human body.

 

Green Chilli & Green Vegetables

 

Adulterants: Malachite green 

Test: Take a cotton piece, soak in paraffin & rub over outer surface of the vegetable. If the cotton turns green we say that vegetable is adulterated by malachite green. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Artificial colors can be dangerous. 

 

Sweet Potato

 

Adulterants: Rhodamine b colour 

Test: Take a cotton piece, soak in paraffin & rub over outer surface of the vegetable. If the cotton absorbs the colour we say that vegetable is adulterated by rhodamine b colour.

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Artificial colors can be dangerous 

 

Coconut Oil

 

Adulterants: Any other oil 

Test: Refrigerate the oil. Coconut oil will solidify leaving the rest of the oil / adulterant in a separate layer. 

HARMFUL EFFECTS: Mixing of oil can lead to quality problems & heart problems if non edible oils are mixed.



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