Adulteration is derived from a Latin word meaning corrupted. An adulterant is a substance found within other substances such as food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fuel or other chemicals that compromises the safety or effectiveness of said substance. Out of all those, adulteration of food is an example how human beings are not any more humane. The lure of riches has led to adulterants being added to food from the simple stones in rice to the more harmful brick and boric powder.

Adulteration is either intentional or unintentional. Intentional is by removing substances to food or altering the existing natural properties of food knowingly for financial gain. Unintentional adulteration is usually attributed to ignorance’s, carelessness or lack of facilities for maintaining food quality. Incidental contamination during the period of growth, harvesting, storage, processing, transport and distribution of foods are also considered. Out of these the intentionally added adulterants have serious impact on health of consumers. Moreover the adulterated food is dangerous because it may be toxic and can affect health and it could deprive nutrients essential for proper growth and development.

  • Intentional Adulterants include additives and preservatives like vinegar, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate commonly known as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide in milk, modified food starch, food flavours, synthetic preservatives, artificial sweeteners, chemicals like calcium carbide to ripen mangoes and bananas, metallic lead to give colours to vegetables etc.
  • Incidental Adulterants include pesticide residues, dropping of rodents, insects and larva in foods.

Detection of adulteration in food is an essential requirement for ensuring safety of foods we consume. Though there are lab techniques that are accurate, precise, and reliable to find out whether the food is adulterated or not, it is not possible for each person to take their food to lab to find it out. Still there are some ways to find out if your food is adulterated or not.

Check out my next article to know how to identify adulterated foods, what are the common foods that are adulterated and what are the common adulterants used.

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