Indian Food Products Prone To Adulteration During Festive Season

2019-10-05 10:13:36



The festival of lights is also a time when family and friends exchange sweets and gifts. Deepavali sweets, such as motichoor ke ladoo, khoya barfi, paneer barfi, kaju katli, are undeniably irresistible. During festivals, the usage of milk and milk based products increases. These food products have low shelf life and tend to get spoil very fast if not stored properly. Previously, there have been many incidents of dairy businesses indulging in acts of adulteration.

Sweets with microbial contamination can also pose to a serious threat to the health of consumers. Food is adulterated to increase the quantity and make more profit. The technical definition of food adulteration according to the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is, "The addition or subtraction of any substance to or from food, so that the natural composition and quality of food substance is affected." In India normally the contamination/adulteration in food is done either for financial gain or due to carelessness and lack in proper hygienic condition of processing, storing, transportation and marketing.  Food adulteration is an act of adding or mixing of poor quality, inferior, harmful, substandard, useless or unnecessary substances to foods. This act of spoiling the nature and quality of food items is considered food adulteration. Adulteration has taken away the joy of life. Now everything you like may or may not have fallen prey to the locus of adulterants.

Government initiatives

In India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is completely responsible for providing safe food to the citizens. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 has laid down guidelines to provide pure and wholesome foods to consumers. The Act was last amended in 1986 to make punishments more stringent and to empower consumers further. But recently, the government is planning to enforce harsher punishment. The FSSAI has issued the draft amendments to the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, which was passed in 2006 but the regulations were notified only in 2011. 

Here is a list of most common adulterants in India during festive season:


Khoya and Chhena  are commonly used for the preparation of traditional festival season  and are often adulterated with starch. All you need to do is boil a small sample in water, cool it then add a few drops of iodine solution. A blue color indicates the presence of starch. Silver coating (vark) used to decorate sweets is made from silver. According to Indian regulations, silver must be 99.9 per cent pure if it is used as a food ingredient. However, with silver becoming expensive many sweet shop owners use silver vark that could contain aluminium. 


Milk is possibly one of the easiest targets and that's why you'll find hundreds of cases where food authorities or independent food testing agencies have found milk to be adulterated. A 2014 report warned users of how the milk produced by Indian cows might be adulterated because they graze on garbage. A 2012 study conducted by the FSSAI across 33 states found that milk in India was adulterated with diluted water, detergent, fat and even urea. Some of the adulterants that are used in milk are water, chalk, urea, caustic soda and skimmed milk, while Khoya is adulterated with paper, refined oil and skimmed milk powder. 

Butter and cream

Butter can be diluted with water or partially replaced with cheaper plant oils such as palm oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil. This increases the profits derived from a given volume of milk.

Vegetable Oils and Ghee

 In Mustard seeds and mustard oil adulterant is Argemone seeds (used to add bulk and weight).Papaya seeds (used to add bulk)that the consumption of these could cause epidemic dropsy and severe glaucoma. Young children and senior citizens with poor immunity are more susceptible this. According to a food website report 70% of the olive oil sold is adulterated with cheaper oils. The most common form of adulteration comes from mixing olive oil with cheaper, lower-grade oils. Sometimes, it’s an oil from an altogether different source — like canola oil or colza oil. Other times, they blend extra olive oil with a poorer quality olive oil.