Food is fundamental to the sustenance of every being. But what happens when food becomes the source of woes? Food adulteration has been a persistent problem in recent years with authorities uncovering several cases. Even notable brands are sometimes entangled in these scams. Adulteration exists in almost every product we consume – groceries, medicines, and even milk and honey. So, what is food adulteration?
Food adulteration is when substandard, harmful, substances are mixed with natural food, spoiling their nature and quality. Adulterated food is extremely harmful to our health, robbing our bodies of essential nutrients. However, despite being a major issue, adulteration continues across the country. One of the reasons is that it fuels business. But at what cost? Let’s hear nutritionist Lavleen Kaur, co-founder at Diet Insight to give us some insight:
The ‘Why’ And ‘How’ Of It
If you are thinking food adulteration merely involves adding colors to vegetables and fruits, think again. Chalk powder in salt, chemicals in turmeric powder, coriander powder with sawdust, brick powder with chili powder, etc., is a glimpse into what food adulteration is. Unknowingly, we consume these on a daily basis, risking our health. The 2018-2019 Food Safety Standards Association of India (FSSAI) Report alarmingly revealed that 28% of food samples were adulterated and that adulteration had doubled since 2012.
Recently, honey samples from 13 homegrown brands were tested according to Indian and International Standards. Disturbingly, 75% of the honey samples were adulterated with modified sugar syrup, making it undetectable to common adulteration tests. The FSSAI deemed that companies could have ineffective testing methods, lack of skill, or manpower.
So, why do companies engage in adulteration? The answer is simple—increasing profit margin. While it’s unethical and government laws deem it an illegal practice, adulteration continues rampantly even today. This is due to loopholes that exist in regulations and the lack of strong implementation of the laws. For instance, in December 2020, the FSSAI withdrew the order prohibiting the blending of mustard oil. Although the order was issued to ensure pure mustard oil for domestic consumption, it sparked concerns in the edible oil industry that stated that it would affect business, once again, risking consumers’ health for business.
Finding A Solution
Although, full-scale and effective implementation of this may take substantial time. In the meanwhile, as consumers, we must exercise caution when we purchase food by taking simple steps such as checking Agmark for quality, buying from trusted, verified sources, and not believing claims made by brands.
For instance, artificial sweeteners may cause more harm to our bodies as compared to natural sugar. It is also in our bodies’ best interest to steer clear of processed and packaged food as much as possible and consume natural foods. Furthermore, for raw foods such as fruits and vegetables, washing them in Apple Cider Vinegar (1 tablespoon in 1 litre of water). After all, it is our health that is on the line and as the popular saying goes, ‘Health is Wealth’.
Also Read: Expert Speak: How To Read Nutrition Labels