Adulterants In Indian Spices

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

2017-09-01 08:03:17



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. India produces a variety of spices and it is a must in every Indian kitchen. The risk of consuming adultered 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 colour, 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 increased shelf life of milk 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 colourslike 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 he non- permittedcolours 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.NCDEX, a company in India, was ordered to destroy 900 tons of black pepper contaminated with mineral oil.  

Here are following spices which may adultered by some common adulterants.

Asafoetida (Hing):Soap stone or other earthy material and foreign resinare the common adulterant used inAsafoetida (Hing).

For identification of these adulterants mix little portion of the sample with water and allow to settle down. Soap stone and other earthy material settle down at the bottom. On burning pure asafetida burns like aromatic camphor.


Turmeric Powder

Turmeric powder can be adulterated by corn flour (starch), yellow coloured talk or sawdust, lead chromate or melanil yellow dye.

For identification of these adulterants, add few drop of concentrated HCldisappear of Instant appeared pink colour on dilution with water shows the presence of turmeric if color persist, metanil yellow colour is present. On addition of concentrated HClEffervescence will indicate the presence of chalk and yellow stone powder.

Black Pepper

Papaya seeds, black berries are the common adulterant used in black pepper as they are almost similar in size but tasteless (sometimes bitter).

For identification of these adulterants,floatthe sample in rectified spirit, the black paper berries sink while the papaya seeds and light black berries float. On pressing with fingers light black berries will break easily while black pepper not.

Red Chilli Powder (LalMirch Powder)

Can be adulterated by brick powder,salt powder or talc powder and artificial colours like Sudan Red. For identification of these adulterants take a tea spoon of chili powder in a glass of water. Coloured water extract shows the presence of artificial colour in chili powder. Grittiness on rubbing and settlement at the bottom indicates the presence of brick powder and sand. Soapy and smooth touch of white residue at the bottom indicates the presence of soap stone.


The most expensive spice in the world. Saffron is adulterated by coloured dried tendrils of maize cob.Pure saffron gives it saffron colour when dissolved in water as long as it lasts.Artificial saffron releases its colorquickly.

Cinnamon (Dalchini)

Cinnamon is very commonly replaced with Cassia Bark, which is much cheaper. Cinnamon bark is very thin and can be easily rolled around a pencil or a pen and also have a distinct smell. Cassia barks are tougher and thicker. They rarely give out any aromatic smell.

Mustard seed

Argemone seed is the common adulterant used in mustard seedFor identification of argemone seed in mustard seed use magnifying glass. argemone seed seeds are grainy, rough and black. On pressing mustard seed is yellow in colour while agremone seed is white in colour.

Source: epicureandigest,