Tips to Check Food Adultration

InĀ  a country where official systems set for food safety and prevention are constantly outdone by a booming adulteration business, the onus of safeguarding one’s family against contaminated food, unfortunately falls on citizens themselves. From loose packed ground spices, to wet produce such as milk, khoya, paneer, to dry spices and grains, almost everything you can buy might be adulterated, if purchased from an unauthorized vendor in a box unmarked and untested by either Agmark or ISI. While some of these could be less harmful, such as water or bran, chemicals and colouring agents such as metanil yellow, lead chromate, sudan red III, are known to be carcinogenic.

The chairman of the Consumer Guidence Society of India, Dr Sitaram Dixit, lists a few commonly used food items, and suggests simple home tests to check for their most common adulterants. In case the test asks for the presence of an acid, you could use common toilet-cleaning acid, or easily found citric acid or even lemon juice.

1.) Turmeric Dals and Pulses such as Moong or Channa

Adulterant :- Metanil Yellow and Kesari Dal (added to enhance the yellow colour of a food substance).

Test :- Dissolve half a spoon full a Besan or Turmeric powder in 20 ml of lukewarm water. Add a few drops of hudrochloric acid or any commonly available acid at home. If the water turns pink, violet or purple, it shows the presence of metanil yellow.

Harmful Effects :- It’s considered to be highly carcinogenic and if consumed over a continuous period of time, it can also stomach disorders.

2.) Green Chillies, Green Peas and Other Vegetables

Adulterant :- Malachite green (to accentuate the bright, glowing green colour of the vegetables).

Test :- Take a small portion of the sample and place it over a moistened white blotting paper. Coloured impressions on the blotting paper indicate the presence of Malachite green.

Harmful Effects :- It’s a coloured dye that has proven to be carcinogenic for humans if consumed over a long period of time.

3.) Mustard Seeds and Mustard Oil

Adulterant :- Argemone seeds (used to add bulk and weight).

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

Harmful Effects :- The consumption of these could cause epidemic dropsy and severe glaucoma. Young children and senior citizens with poor immunity are more susceptible to this.

4.) Paneer, Khoya, Condensed Milk and Milk

Adulterant :- Starch (used to give it a thick, rich texture).

Test :- Take a small sample of the product in a test tube, add 20 ml of water and bring to a boil. Cool to room temperature and add a drop or two of iodine solution. If the solution. If the solution turns blue, it clearly marks the presence of search.

Harmful Effects :- Unhygienic, unprocessed water and starch can cause stomach disorders. Starch greatly reduces the nutritional value of the ingredient.

5.) Ice Cream

Adulterant :- Washing powder (used to add a bright white sheen and lightness of flavour).

Test :- The best thing would be to squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on the ice cream. If it starts to froth and bubble, it marks the presence of washing powder.

Harmful Effects :- It can cause severe stomach and liver disorders.

6.) Black Pepper

Adulterant :- Papaya seeds (used to add bulk).

Test :- Float the sample in alcohol. Mature black pepper corns will automatically sink whereas papaya seeds will float to the surface.

Harmful Effects :- Very few people know that papaya seeds can actually cause serious liver problems and stomach disorders.

7.) Coffee Powder

Adulterant :- Tamarind seeds, chicory powder (used to add bulk and colour).

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. Also, the falling chicory powder will leave a trail of colour behind due to the large amounts of caramel it contains.

Harmful Effects:- These can cause diarhoea, stomach disorders, giddiness and severe joint pains.


(source: Times of India, New Delhi, Date – 23.01.2012)

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