By Kejal Sheth
Since pre-historic times, human beings have adulterated food for extending its longevity. But soon, this transformed into a practice of adulteration for economic gain.
While the safety of our food supplies has improved over the years; multiple cases of dilution, substitution and mislabelling continue. We are trapped in an illusion where the everyday things look apt but in reality, are all messed up. However, such food fraud is detectable at home.
Food Fraud is Detectable at Home:
Here, we have listed a few kitchen ingredients commonly adulterated in India and how to identify those:
Milk is probably the easiest and hence the most commonly adulterated food item. We have all at some point in life seen our local milkman diluting milk with water. Well, that’s at least safe. There are a few other adulterants like starch and detergent also added to milk which is alarming.
- Mix about 10 ml of milk sample with an equal amount of water and shake vigorously. Presence of detergent will cause a dense lather to build up.
- To identify the presence of starch in milk, take 20 ml of the sample and dilute it with an equal quantity of water. After a single boil let it cool to room temperature and add 2-3 drops of iodine solution. A blue discoloration is indicative of starch.
Honey is mainly adulterated to increase the quantity in the bottle. It is generally adulterated with glucose/high fructose corn syrup.
Add one tablespoon of honey in a glass of water and observe. If it dissolves instantly, it is adulterated. Pure honey is denser and will settle at the bottom.
This beverage is something very close to every Indian’s heart. Tea leaves are adulterated to add that extra aroma and flavor. Often used or processed tea leaves that have been colored are added.
Sprinkle a pinch of tea powder on a blotting paper. If you notice a yellow, orange or red color on the paper, adulteration is confirmed. Original tea leaves release color only when added to hot water.
The main protein source for vegetarians is dal, which is anyways expensive. On top of that now, it is contaminated using metanil yellow.
On a blotting paper, sprinkle some powdered dal and add a few drops of hydrochloric acid. Pink discoloration is indicative of adulterant.
Salt and sugar:
Yes, this basic ingredient is often blended with chalk powder which is not a healthy scenario.
In a glass of water add a spoon full of salt/sugar. Presence of chalk powder is confirmed if the solution is anything but not clear.
These are most commonly adulterated to bulk the product and increase the volume. Common substitutes used are vanaspati, low-grade vegetable oils, starch, etc.
- Melt a small amount of ghee and pour it into a transparent container and refrigerate. If multiple layers are visible, the product has cheaper adulterants.
- In a small transparent container, take a sample of melted ghee/butter, add a pinch of sugar and shake vigorously. Let it rest for 5 min. Red color at the base is indicative of vegetable oil.
The most trusted remedy for every problem be it cold and cough or a small cut, turmeric comes to the rescue. But, what if this savior is itself impure. The culprits are metanil yellow and lead chromate.
One of the easiest ways to check adulteration in turmeric powder is to add a spoon of turmeric powder to hot water. Do not stir. If the powder settles to the bottom with clear water above, the turmeric is pure.
Red chilli powder:
The spices are a great plus to all our meals but their relative cost is what causes this contamination. Adulterants are brick powder and artificial color.
Add a spoon of the sample product to water and mix well. If a bright red color is seen, color has been added. On the other hand, if you notice sedimentation, definitely some husk or brick powder is present.
This spice adds flavor and aroma to every dish uplifting the taste but is unfortunately mixed with charcoal dust, sawdust and grass seeds.
Rub the seeds in between your palm. If your hands turn black, then the product you have is full of grass seeds.
About Kejal Sheth:
Kejal Sheth, Nutritionist and Weight Management Expert, Founder of Nutrivity.in.