Top 10 Food Products Prone To Adulteration In India

Er. Sanjay Kumar, Dept. of Food Tech. Uttaranchal University, Dehradun

2015-11-28 04:24:26



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. Adulteration has taken away the joy of life. Now everything you like may or may not have fallen prey to the locus of adulterants. We see grey but it turns out to be black and white. We are trapped in an illusion where the everyday use items are now all messed up. This ultimately results that the consumer is either cheated or often become victim of diseases. Such types of adulteration are quite common in developing countries or backward countries. According to the Journal of Food Science , "Olive oil, milk, honey, saffron, orange juice, coffee and apple juice are the seven most likely food ingredients to be targets for intentional or economically motivated adulteration of food."

1.  Milk


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. 

2. Honey

Honey is often adulterated with water and table sugar to increase the bottle's quantity. According to a study carried out by the Centre for Science and Environment, most honey brands being sold in the country contain varying amounts of antibiotics and their consumption over time could induce resistance to antibiotics, lead to blood-related disorders and injury to the liver. 

3. Spices

spices like turmeric powder is also adulterated with ‘metanil yellow’. ‘Metanil yellow’ is produced with utilizing some raw materials like ‘metanilic acid’ and ‘diphenylamine’. The common people do not know the risk of consuming turmeric powder mixed with ‘metanil yellow’. It is purely carcinogenic – means it is capable of causing cancer in living tissues. In black pepper adulterant is Papaya seeds (used to add bulk).It 's harmful effect is that Papaya seeds can cause serious liver problems and stomach disorders. Chilli powder is often adulterated with a similar looking substance like brick powder. 

4. Ice Cream

 In ice Cream  adulterant is pepperonil, ethylacetate,butraldehyde, emil acetate, nitrate, washing powder etc are not less than poison. Pepperoil is used as a pesticide and ethyl acetate causes terribble diseases affecting lungs, kidneys and heart. Ice cream is manufactured in extremely cold chamber where fat is hardened and several harmful substances are added. Also a kind of gum is added which is sticky and slow melting. This gum is obtained by boiling animal parts like tail,the nose,the udder etc.

5. Food grains and Flour

The rice and wheat is a part of our staple food in India. The powdered rice and wheat is usually adulterated with starch. This is done to thicken the cream. This added substance takes away the nutrition intended for the consumer leaving us under the illusion that our diet is perfect. Rice is being adulterated with small ‘grains of stones’ to increase the overall weight per quintal by unscrupulous retailers.

6. Coffee powder

 The coffee powder usually adulterated Tamarind seeds, chicory powder (used to add bulk and colour).It 's harmful effect is that it can cause diarrhea, stomach disorders, giddiness and severe joint pains.

7. Tomato sauces

Tomato sauces mostly used in local fast food centres in numerous areas of West Bengal, are also artificially made from ‘pumpkin pulp’, ‘sugar’, ‘non-edible colours and flavours’. No tomato is present in that sauce to maintain very cheap rate in the local market. These sauces with ‘artificial colours and flavours’ are highly carcinogenic. These are being supplied rampantly without the checking of the health department.

8. Tea Leaves

Tea leaves are often adulterated with chemicals and additives that add to its aroma or flavour. Many substances have been used to adulterate tea. Ordinary substances for adulterating tea include, but are not limited to: Prussian blue — a nonsoluble, blue pigment commonly used to color blueprints, crayons, paintings, and paint; it is non-toxic to humans. Indigo — a blue dye derived from the Indigofera tinctoria plant; it is non-toxic to humans. Graphite (Plumbago) — a naturally occurring mineral that is a form of carbon; commonly used as the "lead" in pencils. Gypsum — a soft, naturally occurring mineral; used to alter color of tea

9.  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.

10. Diwali Sweets:

 Khoya and Chhena  are commonly used for the preparation of traditional Diwali sweets, 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. 

Source:,,, timesofindia, V. Lakshmi et al., IJSIT, 2012, 1(2), 106-113,,,