Why food adulteration should be the reason for consistent anxiety among millennials?

Adding preservatives or unwanted chemicals to food items to make them look more aesthetic or last longer on the shelves of a supermarket are some problems that directly result in food adulteration. So let’s dive into details of food adulteration.

What is Food Adulteration?

As per the food adulteration definition, food adulteration is the act or process of intentionally or willingly degrading the quality of food items offered for sale either by the addition or substitution of inferior substances or by the removal of some valuable ingredient to increase the shelf life or to make it look more appealing in the eyes of the prospective customer. Thus, in other words, food adulteration or adulteration of food can be defined as the contamination or adulteration of food or food items by adding harmful substances to it or by removing valuable substances from it.

What are Adulterants?

The substances or chemicals that lower the quality and nutritional value of the said food item, when added to the food item, are called adulterants. Adulterants hamper the natural quality of food. The adulterant may be present in any food item in any form and quantity. Adulterants are not only harmful but also reduce the potency of the food item and when the adulterant is not harmful, it still reduces the nutritional value of the said food item to a great extent. Many adulterants are defined as carcinogenic or lethal when exposed to them for a long time. Different food items consist of different types of adulterants.

When is food considered adulterated?

Food is considered to be adulterated when a substance that debases the quality of food is added to it to make it visually pleasing or preserve it and in turn, makes it hazardous or of lesser nutritional value. Adulteration of food also takes place when cheaper or low-quality substances are used as a substitute for whole and good quality ingredients or wherein a constituent of food is partly or wholly taken out, which in turn reduces the quality of food or when it’s made presentable with harmful substances or anything, in general, is added that depreciates the quality of food is added to or subtracted from the food.

Adulteration of Food Examples

Diluting milk with water

Mixing of pulses with sand particles and pebbles

Mixing oil with cheaper oils or chemical derivatives

Packing low-quality food items almost rotten ones with fresh and good quality ones.

What are the types of Food Adulteration?

Mainly, there are 4 different types of food adulteration and those are as follows:

Packing Hazard – The packing material in which the food is packed may also mess up with the food’s ingredients and deteriorate it leading to packing hazards.

Intentional Adulteration –When similar-looking substances are added to a food item to increase its weight or quantity and gain more profit by doing so. Example – dilatation of milk with water, adding sand, pebbles to pulses, etc.

Metallic Adulteration – It may happen accidentally or intentionally and the addition of metallic materials into food like lead or mercury is known as metallic adulteration.

Incidental Adulteration – Residues of pesticides or harmful fertilizers, presence of droppings of rodents, larvae growth, etc. are known as incidental adulteration which occurs due to negligence while handling food.

History of Food Adulteration and methods of food adulteration go hand in hand as with evolving time the methods of food adulteration also evolved and updated. Some of the methods of food adulteration which are still practiced today are:

Artificial Ripening – Sometimes chemicals are added to fruits and vegetables to fasten up their ripening process which is also considered food adulteration as it may mess up the nutritional value of the food.

Mixing – Mixing of inedible items like sand, clay, dust, pebbles, etc. with food items.

Misbranding – Altering the manufacturing dates, expiry dates, list of ingredients, or misleading the consumers by not providing the full list of ingredients’ derivatives and so on.

Substituting – healthy and good quality ingredients are replaced by cheap, low-quality, and hazardous ones which may also cause a health hazard.

Addition of Toxic Substances –Food Adulteration also involves the addition of substances to the food to gain higher profit by increasing sales. Example – Addition of colors and dyes which aren’t edible, harmful or unpermitted, or unsafe preservatives.

Using Decomposed Food –This method involves mixing decomposed food with healthy ones. Food that covers up any damage or inferiority of any manner is also known as adulterated food as this intentional adulteration of good and healthy food with decomposed one leads to food adulteration.

Harmful Effects of Food Adulteration on Human Health

Food Adulteration has a great negative impact on our health. Irrespective of the type of adulteration, prolonged consumption of adulterated food is very harmful to the human body. Consuming adulterated food increases the number of toxic elements in the body. Nutritional value also falls as more and more adulterants are added to the food thus leaving it the least nutritive for the body.  Chemical adulterants and colors which are added to food many times prove to be fatal as they pose an onset of health risks or hazards because of the high percentage of carcinogens present in them. Some adulterated food may also affect our organs directly and without much delay by leading to heart, kidney, liver, and many more organ disorders and failure.Food adulteration risk – including food defense incidents, intended to harm or commit food fraud motivated by economic gain – is growing in scope, scale, and threat. The adulteration risks are direct, indirect, and technical. Public health vulnerability in each case is because the production operation is probably not following good manufacturing practices. Examples of fraud include melamine or chalk in milk, carcinogen colors or dyes in foods, dilution of fruit juices, species swapping of seafood, unauthorized repackaging, tax-avoidance smuggling, or the sale of stolen goods.

Thus, Food Adulteration occurs globally and in many facets and affects almost all food commodities. Adulteration not only constitutes a considerable economic problem but also may lead to serious health issues for consumers. As the methods of adulterating foods have become more sophisticated, very efficient and reliable techniques for the detection of fraudulent manipulations are required. 

Download Food Marketing & Technology Magazine