Food adulteration is the act of intentionally debasing the quality of food offered for sale either by the admixture or substitution of inferior substances or by the removal of some valuable ingredient. Food is declared adulterated if: • a substance is added which depreciates or injuriously affects it • cheaper or inferior substances are substituted wholly or in part • any valuable or necessary constituent has been wholly or in part abstracted • it is an imitation
• it is coloured or otherwise treated, to improve its appearance or if it contains any added substance injurious to health. Food-preservatives have a very extensive use, which often constitutes adulteration. Salt is the classic preservative, but is seldom classified as an adulterant. Salicylic, benzoic, and boric acids, and their sodium salts, formaldehyde, ammonium fluoride, sulphurous acid and its salts are among the principal preservatives. Many of these appear to be innocuous, but there is danger that the continued use of food preserved by these agents may be injurious. Some preservatives have been conclusively shown to be injurious when used for long periods.
Coal-tar colours are employed a great deal, pickles and canned vegetables are sometimes coloured green with copper salts; butter is made more yellow by anatta; turmeric is used in mustard and some cereal preparations. Apples are the basis for many jellies, which are coloured so as to simulate finer ones. In confectionery, dangerous colours, such as chrome yellow, prussian blue, copper and arsenic compounds are employed. Yellow and orange-coloured sweets are to be suspected. Artificial flavouring compounds are employed in the concoction of fruit syrups, especially those used for soda water. Milk is adulterated with water, and indirectly by removing the cream. The addition of water may introduce disease germs. Cream is adulterated with gelatin, and formaldehyde is employed as a preservative for it. Butter is adulterated to an enormous extent with oleomargarine, a product of beef fat. Brick dust in chilli powder, coloured chalk powder in turmeric, injectable dyes in watermelon, peas, capsicum, brinjal, papaya seeds in black pepper etc.
To avoid illness, one is advised to select foods with care. All raw foods must be checked for contamination particularly in areas where hygiene and sanitation are inadequate. One is advised to avoid salads, uncooked vegetables, and unpasteurised milk and milk products such as cheese, and to eat only food that has been cooked and is still hot. Undercooked and raw meat, fish, and shellfish can carry various intestinal pathogens. Cooked food that has been allowed to stand for several hours at ambient temperature can provide a fertile medium for bacterial growth and should be thoroughly reheated before serving. Consumption of food and beverages obtained from street food vendors has been associated with an increased risk of illness.
Adulterants are chemical substances which should not be contained within other substances (eg. food, beverages, fuels for legal or other reasons). Adulterants may be intentionally added to more expensive substances to increase visible quantities and reduce manufacturing costs, or for some other deceptive or malicious purpose. Adulterants may also be accidentally or unknowingly introduced into substances. The addition of adulterants is called adulteration. The word is only appropriate when the additions are unwanted by the recipient, otherwise the expression would be food additive. Adulterants when used in illicit drugs are called cutting agents, while deliberate addition of toxic adulterants to food or other products for human consumption is known as poisoning.
In food and beverages
Examples of adulteration include:
• Mogdad coffee, whose seeds have been used as an adulterant for coffee • Roasted chicory roots, whose seeds have been used similarly, starting during the Napoleonic era in France (and...
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