Adulteration is the process of mixing unwanted, low standard supplement to a pure product to compensate for the production of a minor quality. The main reason to adulterate is not only to increase the quantity but also to sell a cheap product at higher costs. Due to such additives although the quality might increase but at the cost of people's lives. Every quality degrading addition to a pure product causes a lot of harmful effects on the health of humans and animals. It is the debasement of genuine materials.
A dangerous moment of truth
Everything around us has some kind of adulteration and this is escalating health problems to a dangerous level. Not only food items but medicines, baby food and even animal food products has their quality debased with some or other kind of adulterant. Pregnant women give birth to unhealthy, physically challenged children due to the consumption of adulterated food items. The miscarriage data indicate adulteration as one of the reasons.
News channels break into adulteration scandals now and then but the industry has a strong grip over the adulteration market. It has become difficult to uproot its deep-seated roots. The adulteration is so grave that it has left no corner untouched and has the capability of causing diseases from diarrhoea to cancer. The Indian market is the largest attraction to crimes like these. This is mostly because of the unsatisfying and uncontrolled population of the country and its growing needs.
What is an adulterant?
Anything that makes a pure product low in quality but high in quantity which makes it bad for consumption is called an adulterant. Adulterants can be toxic chemicals or could not even have any nutritional value at all. A few adulterants are carcinogenic and others are just low-quality supplements to a higher quality product.
Reasons of Adulteration
Adulteration, until now we have understood is the degradation of quality. The following reasons encourages adulteration;
- Due to the scarcity of food or medicines
In a market like India’s, the cost of living for a few people are extremely excruciating. The manufacturer makes profits out of the miseries of poor people. Nowadays the adulteration does not limit itself to the poor but it has become the regular practice of a manufacturer to make product low in quality to compensate the produce.
- The high rates of raw materials
Due to the increasing prices of raw materials, the sellers add adulterants to the pure product and hence add their share in the degradation of the product.
- The adulterant added must have the same morphological characteristics as of the genuine material
Mixing of raw materials with materials of same morphological features is a common practice. The texture, density and colour are sometimes so similar that it becomes impossible to distinguish the adulterant with naked eyes. Hence it provides an advantage to the manufacturer.
- The seller makes more profit on an inferior product than the genuine product as the mixture of the pure product with cheap adjuvants or supplements results in increased quantity.
The manufacturer is mixing the cheap adjuvants with a pure product and selling it at higher prices while providing only a small genuine part of the actual product. In this way, the manufacturer can sell less pure product and make more profits out of it.
Adulteration market in India
The exact time when the adulteration market start is unknown to man but the tests for adulteration shows a deep rooted access of the industry. The observations made recently are extremely horrifying and shows the actual reality. The recent Annual Public Laboratory Testing Report by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) manifests the total adulteration ratio to be 1:5 among 49,000 samples.
After the introduction of food delivering services in India, it has become more difficult to prevent people from buying adulterated items. The food delivering companies provides the luxury of delivering food in the comfort of their own houses that they don't even feel the need of checking the quality of food they are provided with.
Common adulterations in India
- Milk- The most common adulterant in milk is water but a few times the high-quality goat milk mixed with cow’s milk also made the cut as a common adulterant. Urea, detergents, fats, chalk and caustic soda are also some of the adulterants in milk. Adulterationof Khoya with skimmed milk, paper and refined oil while adulteration of butter with water or cheap plant oil like sunflower oil, palm oil and sunflower oil made headlines in news a few times. Pepperonil, ethyl acetate, butyraldehyde, Emil acetate, nitrate, washing powder are a few adulterants in Icecream. A few chemicals in adulterants are capable of causing lung, kidney and liver infections. A specific chemical made out of animal udder, tail and nose are acts as gum to slow the melting process of the ice-cream.
- Honey- Different companies sell different products obtained from bees and beehives in the market.. The amount of antibiotics present in every other brand is different. Antibiotics level reduces after each use and that can be dangerous for human health. Blood and liver disorders are quite common as a result of its consumption. A few times adulteration of honey with sugar molasses is also done to compensate the less obtained raw product.
- Spices- The largest spice market in the world is in India and it sells the largest amount of exotic spices around the globe. Every day or another spice mafias are exposed through news channels. The adjuvants found in the spice mix are so toxic that they can cause cancer and other diseases of extreme harmful effects. The following are the common adulterants in the spice industry;
- matanil yellow and red oxide of lead is a tumeric adulterant.
- papaya seeds in pepper
- brick powder in red chilli powder
- horse dung with coriander powder
- Dal- Dal and rice the staple food of the most part in India and the demand is increasing exponentially. Arhar dal mostly is used in every household and hence the adulterant here is metanil yellow. The toxic chemical causes neurotoxicity and hence is a big participant in neuronal tissue damage.
- Foodgrains and vegetables- Stones or pebbles in rice and ergot(a poisonous fungus) in wheat are a few common types of adulterants easily detectable by naked eyes. Vegetables covered in artificial dye looks shiny but are poisonous colours to attract people into buying them. Common adulterants in fruits are vegetables are malachite green, oxytocin, saccharin, wax, calcium carbide and copper sulphate.
How to test the presence of adulterants?
Many chemical and physical tests can be devised for every other category of food. Since distinguishing the genuine material from the adulterated one is difficult, people rely on chemical tests. Iodine tests for the presence of starch, Hcl test for metanil yellow, chromatography, spectroscopy, stable isotope analysis, proteomics, etc are a few common tests for the presence of an adulterant.
Many of the methods for detection of food adulteration require elaborate steps of sample preparation prior analysis involving high-end technologies. It makes the whole process even difficult to perform and time-consuming. Despite the fact, food technologists are testing samples for the presence of harmful adjuvants.
Law enforcement against adulteration
Such malpractices in India is a result of careless through the ages. But now the government is more alert and concern about the mishaps in the food sector. The growth in the food sector is associated with the enforcement of such laws made against these crimes. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, has laid down guidelines to provide pure and wholesome foods to consumers. The Act was last amended in 1986 to make punishments more stringent and to empower consumers further. But the government is planning to enforce harsher punishment now. The FSSAI has issued the draft amendments to the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, which was passed in 2006 but the regulations were notified only in 2011. Among the key amendments, the FSSAI has proposed to include a new section to crack down on food adulteration.
People should buy food and medicines after looking for the Agmark or ISI standard marks on the packets. They should also ask for a bill according to their consumer right to information and right service. If people become alert of what they are buying, the crime level will automatically come down.