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Tricks to expose food adulteration

In a country where official systems set for food safety and prevention are constantly outdone by a booming adulteration business, the onus of safeguarding one’s family against contaminaed food, unfortunately falls on citizens themselves. From loose packed ground spices, to wet produce such as milk, khoya, paneer, to dry spices and grains, almost everything you can buy has a potential of being adulterated, if purchased from an unauthorized vendor in a box unmarked and tested by either Agmark or ISI.

While some of these could be less harmful, such as water or bran, chemicals and colouring agents such as Metanil Yellow, Lead Chromate, Sudan Red III, are known to be carcinogenic. The chairman of the Consumer Guidence Society of India, Dr Sitaram Dixit lists a few commonly used food items, and suggests simple home tests to check for their most common adulterants. In case the test asks for the presence of an acid, you could use common toilet-cleaning acid, or easily found citric acid or even lemon juice.

1 Turmeric, dals and pulses such as moong or channa

Metanil Yellow and Kesari Dal (Added to enhance the yellow colour of a food substance)

Dissolve half a spoon full of besan or turmeric powder in 20 ml of lukewarm water. Add a few drops of hydrochloric acid or any commonly available acid at home. If the water turns pink, violet or purple, it shows the presence of Metanil yellow.

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The Expert’s Thought: Adulteration is the act of debasing a pure or genuine commodity for pecuniary profit, by adding to it and inferior or spurious article, or by taking from it one or more of its constituents.

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