Food Services Management

Food Adulteration – Adulterants, Concept of Adulteration, Types of Adulterants : Intentional adulterants, Incidental Adulterants

Food Adulteration

Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) defines food adulteration as the addition or subtraction of any substance to or from the food, so that the natural composition and the quality of food substance is affected. One form of adulteration is an addition of another substance to a food item in order to increase the quantity of the food item in raw form or prepared form which may result in the loss of actual quality of food item.

Reasons for food adulteration:

Adulterants are added to increase the weight and get more profit.


An adulterant is any material which is or could be employed for making the food unsafe or sub-standard or misbranded or containing extraneous matter (FSSAI, 2006).

Concept of Adulteration

Food is adulterated

☆If the food contains any other substance which affects the quality or health of the consumer.

☆If the food has been prepared, packed or kept under unsanitary conditions whereby it has become contaminated or injurious to health.

☆If the food consists wholly or in part of any filthy, putrefied, rotten decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance or is insect infested or is otherwise unfit for human consumption.

☆If any colouring matter other than that prescribed in respect thereof is present in the article or if the amounts of the prescribed colouring matter which is present in the article are not within the prescribed limits.

Types of Adulterants:

Adulteration may be intentional or incidental.

Intentional adulterants:

Intentional adulterants are those substances that are added as a deliberate act on the part of the adulterer with the intention to increase the margin of profit. Some intentional adulterants are sand, marble chips, stones, mud, chalk powder, water, mineral oil and coal tar dyes. These adulterants cause harmful effects on the body.

Incidental Adulterants

Incidental adulterants are found in food substances due to ignorance, negligence or lack of proper facilities. It is not a wilful act on the part of the adulterer. E.g.. Pesticides, droppings of rodents, larvae in food.

The common adulterants are

Milk is adulterated with water, chalk, urea, caustic soda and skimmed milk. Khoya is adulterated with paper, refined oil and skimmed milk powder.

Pure Honey is often adulterated with several types of standard sugar solution, glucose, fructose, sucrose and also with cheap syrups, corn, inverted sugar and cane sugar.

Turmeric powder is adulterated with ‘metanil yellow’. ‘Metanil yellow’ is produced utilizing some raw materials like ‘metanilic acid’ and ‘diphenylamine’. The risk of consuming turmeric powder mixed with ‘metanil yellow’ is that it is purely carcinogenic – means it is capable of causing cancer in living tissues. SPICES

In black pepper, the adulterant used is papaya seeds to add bulk. The harmful effect is that papaya seeds can cause serious liver problems, stomach disorders, severe glaucoma and epidemic dropsy.

Chilli powder is often adulterated with a similar looking substance like brick powder.

Ginger is used widely in culinary practice in India in the fresh or dry form. Dry ginger is often coated with blue coloured dye ultramarine blue to prevent insect infestation. It is an inorganic pigment used as laundry whitener.

In Ice cream the adulterant is pepper oil, ethyl acetate, butraldehyde and washing powder that are not less than poison. Pepper oil is used as a pesticide and ethyl acetate causes terrible diseases affecting lungs, kidneys and heart.

Food grains like rice and wheat are a part of staple food in India. Powdered rice and wheat is usually adulterated with starch. Rice is being adulterated with small ‘grains of stones’ to increase the overall weight per quintal by retailers.

Coffee powder is usually adulterated with tamarind seeds, chicory powder and also used to add bulk and colour. This can cause diarrhea, stomach disorders, giddiness and severe joint pains.

Tomato sauces mostly used in local fast food centres are, artificially made from ‘pumpkin pulp’, ‘sugar’, ‘non-edible colours and flavours’ with less amount of tomato. These sauces with ‘artificial colours and flavours’ are highly carcinogenic.

Tea leaves are often adulterated with chemicals and additives to add its aroma or flavour. Ordinary substances for adulterating tea include, Prussian blue – a non soluble, blue pigment commonly used to colour blueprints, crayons, paintings, and paint; it is non-toxic to humans. Indigo – a blue dye derived from the Indigo feratinctoria plant; it is non-toxic to humans. Graphite (Plumbago) – a naturally occurring mineral that is a form of carbon; commonly used as the “lead” in pencils.

Gypsum — a soft, naturally occurring mineral is used to alter colour of tea.

Vegetable oils – Edible oils are adulterated with mineral oil, karanja oil or castor oil. This causes loss of eyesight, damage to liver, heart problems, stomach infections or cancer Young children and senior citizens with poor immunity are more susceptible to this.

Traditional sweets – Khoya and paneer are commonly used for the preparation of traditional sweets, and are often adulterated with starch. Silver coating (vark) used to decorate sweets is made from silver. According to Indian regulations, silver must be 99.9 per cent pure if it is used as a food ingredient. However, with silver becoming expensive many sweet shop owners use silver vark containing aluminium.

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