A food adulterant may be defined as any material which is added to food or any substance which adversely affects the nature, substance and quality of the food. As a result of adulteration, food or drink becomes impure and unfit for human consumption. India produces a variety of spices and it is a must in every Indian kitchen. The risk of consuming adulterated spices is more if we use loose spices.
The common adulterants which are added in to these spices are sand, dirt, earth gritty matter, artificial color, starch, chalk powder, bark, stone, saw dust, lead chromate and argemone seed etc.
There are many adulterants which might prove to be a hazard to our health especially if consumed over a long period of time. Chemicals like urea, sodium carbonate, sodium hydroxide, formaldehyde and hydrogen peroxide added to increase shelf life can be harmful when ingested. They can damage the intestinal lining, irritating it. Un- permitted food additives or permitted food additives added in excess; both can cause serious damage of health. The use of certain colors like Orange II lead to retardation of growth and affects the proper functioning of vital organs like liver, kidneys, heart spleen, lungs, bones and the immune systems and commonly used metanil yellow could be injurious to the stomach, ileum, rectum, liver, kidney, ovary and testis. All the non- permitted colors can also bring about changes in genes, most having been identified as potential cancer- causing agents.
Recently, a major Indian supplier was caught and had to destroy tons of turmeric for dangerous adulteration using metanil yellow and red oxide of lead – the later being highly carcinogenic. Another company, was ordered to destroy 900 tons of black pepper contaminated with mineral oil.