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Simple Tests To Identify Food Adulteration

last updated » 26th Sep 2012
 food adulteration


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You can try these kitchen tricks to expose adulteration in your everyday ingredient
In 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 has a potential of being adulterated, if purchased from an unauthorized vendor in a box unmarked and tested by either Agmark or Indian Standard Institution (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, lists a few commonly used food items, and suggests simple home tests the check for their most common adulterants. In case the test asks for the presence of an acid, you let-cleaning acid, or easily found citric acid or even lemon juice.

Turmeric dals and pulses such moong or chnna
Adulterant: Metanil Yellow and Kesari Dal (Added to enhance the yellow colour of a food substance)
Test: Dissolve half a spoon full of bean or turmeric powder in 20 ml of lukewarm water. Add a few drops of hydrochloric 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 highly carcinogenic and if consumed over a continuous period of time it can also cause stomach disorders.

Green chillies, green peas and 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 moistened white blotting paper. Cocoured 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.

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 this.

Panner 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 mil of water and bring to a boil. Cool to room temperature and add a drop or two of iodine solution. If the solution turns blue, it marks the presence of starch.
Harmful effects: Unhygienic unprocessed water and can cause stomach disorders. Starch greatly reduces the nutritional value of the ingredient.

Ice cream 
Adulterant: Washing powder (used to add a bright white sheen and lightness of flavor)
Test: Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice 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.

Black pepper 
Adulterant: Papaya seeds (used to add bulk)
Test: Float the sample in alcohol. Mature black pepper corns will sink where as papaya seeds will float to the surface.
Harmful effects: Papaya seeds can cause serious liver problems and stomach disorders.

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 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 diarrhea, stomach disorders, giddiness and severe joint pains.
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