Turmeric (Haldi) is one of the most basic ingredient that is used in every Indian household. Not just in our dishes but for its medicinal properties as well. No Indian dish is complete without it. But before you step out to buy your next ration of this spice, be careful of what you are about to buy. What you are about to buy might be adulterated with lead chromate (Lead chromate adds color as well as weight to the turmeric powder.), starch based things like rice powder or flour, industrial starch and metanil yellow dye.
Adulterants used in Food items
Rice powder and flour might not pose a health hazard but all the other adulterants do. These adulterants cause serious and irreparable damage to our system when consumed at regular intervals for a long period of time.
- Lead chromate, for instance is one of the most toxic salts of lead, which can cause mental retardation, anemia, brain damage in children, abortion in pregnant women and paralyses.
- Another non-permissible toxic colorant is metanil yellow dye. Metanil yellow dye is used mostly to color gram flour (besan), pulses, miscellaneous cooked foods, namely sweetmeats like jelabi, ladoos, dalmoth, burfi, papad, etc to get an attractive deep yellow color.
Food grade colors are available in the market, but are a lot more expensive. Traders take advantage of the apathetic approach of the law enforcing authorities and substitute these food grade colors with cheap and non-permissible colors and dyes which cause damage to our health and systems.
- Coriander powder and chili powder are adulterated with rice bran, sand and sawdust. But this is not the end if it. Some of the adulterants that are used by these traders are unfathomable.
- Traders are known to adulterate spices food with horse dung and cow dung. Using horse dung and cow dung is not only unethical, from the business point of view, but a crime committed against the society at large.
- Dried seeds of volatile oils are added to spices like cloves, while mineral acids are added to vinegar and papaya seeds are added to black pepper.
- Sauf or aniseed that is usually used as a mouth freshener is dyed with malachite green dye for the bright green color. Extraneous matter like foreign seeds stems and stalks are added to food grains and whole spices.
Any trader that is caught resorting to such means of adulteration should be dealt with very strongly. We all should try as far as possible to buy spices as whole and grind them ourselves at home or buy properly packed and sealed packets of spices food with proper information labels and with certificates from standard companies like AGMARK, ISI and FPO. One such company is Ramdev Masala.
The government or the concerned authorities cannot completely solve the problem of food adulteration and contamination unless we the consumers ourselves become conscious of the health hazards of such contaminations. We also need to be aware of the law which is protecting us under such circumstances. Consumers should be aware of the provisions of the food laws and regulations and how they are protected under the above mentioned law.