When a person, group of persons or an organisation purposely put out inferior food items on sale either by the addition of some harmful substances or by the omission of some valuable constituents- the act carried out is known as food adulteration.

The criteria for food adulteration are as follows:

  • Addition of harmful substances
  • Omission of valuable constituents
  • Copy of the original

? Added colours to enhance the appearance of the food item [1]

HISTORY:

Year

Event

14th century A.D.

Common man fined for bringing stale fish, pig meat & wooden nutmegs into the market

Adulterated wine tested by mixing a small amount of unicorn's horn powder- colour change indicated adulteration

1820

Book written by Frederick Accum, 'A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons' [2]

1848

First national law related to food control came into existence after the Mexican-American War got over; it prohibited importing drugs that are adulterated in nature [3]

1860

Catalyst for the Food Adulteration Act- Dr. A H Hassall

1987

Artificially flavoured sugar water sold as apple juice in the market

1997

Weight of stored grains is more as water is sprayed on them

2007

Wheat gluten in veterinary food items adulterated with melamine

2008

Devastating mix of melamine in baby foods and milk

2012

Adulterants such as detergent, fat and urea are added to milk [4]

WHY IS FOOD ADULTERATED?

1. When the demand is more than the supply in the market.

2. To come at par with the market competitors by lowering the cost of production.

3. The greed for increased profit margins.

4. The common man cannot afford food items with their original constituents.

5. Lack of trained manpower with outdated food processing techniques.

6. No idea about the disease outbreaks caused due to adulterated food products [4].

TYPES OF ADULTERANTS:

1. Intentional- Sand, chalk powder, water etc.

2. Incidental- Residual pesticides from cans, rodent droppings etc.

3. Metallic- Mercury from effluents, lead from water etc.

Food item

Adulterant

Ghee/Butter

Vanaspati

Milk

Water

Ice cream

Metanil yellow

Dals

Kesari dal

Tea leaves

Black/Bengal gram dal husk with colour

Wheat

Ergot (poisonous fungus)

Sugar

Chalk powder

Turmeric

Coloured saw dust/Metanil yellow

Chilly powder

Stones

Jaggery powder

Chalk powder

Common salt

White powdered stone, chalk

Mustard seeds

Argemone seeds

Honey

Molasses

Cinnamon

Cassia bark

Coffee

Chicory [5]

LAWS AGAINST FOOD ADULTERATION IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES:

1. India: There were a number of laws to prevent food adulteration in the country, but could not be applied across all states as they were not uniform in nature. From 1937 itself, the demand for a legislation that could be applied across India started increasing. At present, the Concurrent list (III) of the Indian Constitution encompasses 'Adulteration of food-stuffs and other goods'. The 'Prevention of Food Adulteration Act' came into existence in 1954 [6].

Cases of food adulteration in India are as follows:

- Selling of adulterated laddoos by a sweet shop owner in Ahmedabad. As the shopkeeper did not adhere to the 'Prevention of Food Adulteration Act' he was imprisoned for 6 months & slapped with a fine of ` 5,000/- [7].

- Food Security authorities in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh got hold of 3 quintals of adulterated mawa. Not even one person took responsibility for the act (manufacturing & bringing adulterated food constituents in the market) [8].

- Death of 23 schoolchildren in the Indian state of Bihar in 2013, after eating a meal covered under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme; there was a mix of cooking oil and pesticides [9].

2. European Union (EU): Food Hygiene Directives had shortcomings along with duplication of data which caused a lot of confusion amongst the existing as well as the newer member countries. These directives were reviewed in the late 1990s and the 'Food Hygiene Package' came into existence in January 2006 [10].

Cases of food adulteration in the European Union:

- Beef burgers were withdrawn from the UK supermarket (January 2013) after it was proven that they consisted of horsemeat and meat from pigs. Horsemeat sale is legal in the UK but it becomes illegal when food items are sold in the market without all the constituents being mentioned on the label. It was also found that 5 horses had consumed phenylbutazone (an anti-inflammatory drug). In human beings, this drug might give rise to rare bone marrow disorders when adulterated horsemeat is eaten [11].

- Whenever pesticides are sprayed inside a beehive, there exists a huge possibility of contamination of honey. The next honey contaminants are antibiotics such as Oxytetracycline (used against European & American foulbrood diseases); their residues have been found to be higher than the permissible regulatory standards. In June 2010, Indian honey was banned in the EU due to difficulty of traceability of origin, adulteration & heavy metal contamination [12].

FOOD ADULTERATION IN THE FUTURE:

Nagpur city students have developed a device to check the level of pesticide in any food item as well as clean the same. The device, portable toxic threat detector, can check both solid as well as liquid food items. The persons who put together this device envision raising the weighing capacity, fitting a purifier to the device and its presence on smartphones in the form of an app. To obtain a patent for the device is one of the many goals of the young team in this venture [13].

REFERENCES:

1. http://doctor.ndtv.com/storypage/ndtv/id/3731/type/feature/Food_adulteration.html

2. http://edible-history.com/2013/02/13/there-is-death-in-the-pot-a-brief-history-of-food-adulteration/

3. https://www.facebook.com/notes/junior-morris/the-horrific-history-of-food-adulteration/10201164119735779

4. Dr. Vasireddi S P. Food Adulteration & Control Mechanism. Website:

http://www.ficci.com/events/21353/ISP/Food%20Adulteration%20&%20Control%20Mechanism%2005%20Feb%202013.pdf

5. http://www.indiaagronet.com/indiaagronet/foods%20technology/food%20adulteration.htm

6. http://www.medindia.net/indian_health_act/the-prevention-of-food-adulteration-act-1954-introduction.htm

7. http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/sweet-shop-owner-gets-6-months-ri-for-food-adulteration/1157526/

8. http://zeenews.india.com/news/uttar-pradesh/three-quintals-of-adulterated-mawa-ceased_887616.html

9. http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/07/20/india-bihar-children-food-poisoning-idINDEE96I09B20130720

10. http://www.foodsafetywatch.com/public/509.cfm

11. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/01/31/meat-j31.html

12. http://www.industrial-newsroom.com/news-detail/t/sgs-informs-you-on-honey-contaminants-and-adulteration-cases/?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=104&cHash=65a9affef9



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