Thursday, July 9, 2009

Food adulteration facts

Recently waxed apples seized from retailers across the city created all the buzz and brought back memories of food adulteration lurking in the fruits, vegetables and groceries we buy everyday. It's not just the street hawkers who were caught in the episode but also the major branded supermarket outlets in the country. Apple coated with wax can increase the shelf-life of the fruit from 3-4 days to about 15 days and also enhance the visual sheen of the fruit. But consuming apples coated by wax can cause stomach pain, nausea and even cancer in the long run. Not just the novelty of fruits and vegetables that are being tampered with but mostly the packaged foodstuffs are also vulnerable to adulteration. Genuine coffee powder can be adulterated with ground tamarind or date seed that can result in digestive disorders. Tea powder mixed with cashew husk has similar health issues. Chili powder or turmeric powder enhanced by artificial colors is carcinogenic. Black pepper is an easy target of adulterants like papaya seeds followed by mustard seeds which can be blended with adulterant argemone seeds. All these can cause eye and skin disorders. Water along with sugar or jaggery can be mixed with pure honey that results in diarrhea or vomiting. Adulteration is an inhuman act by vendors for the sake of profit. There is an underlying need for increasing the number of food testing centers with easy public access and educating the public to identify adulteration at home.


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