Food adulteration which is rampant and dangerously spreading, is emerging as a dangerous threat to the society as a whole. The practice of Food adulteratation is done with the lust to increase the quantity and make more profit. In this process, the food is deprived of its nutrients and the even place where the food is cultivated/prepared is often contaminated. For eg: Milk is mixed with water , For ghee, Vanaspati is used as an adulterant , ergot is mixed in cereals , chalk-powder is mixed as an adulterant for flour , coffee has chicory As adulterant, papaya seeds are mixed in pepper , brick-powder is adulterant in chilli powder , tamarind seed powder is the adulterant in coffee , wood powder is mixed in turmeric and dhaniya powder. What is Adulteration?
An adulterant is a chemical substance which should not be contained within other substances (e.g. food, beverages, and fuels) for legal or other reasons. The addition of adulterants is called adulteration.” This word is appropriate only when the added things are unwanted/harmful to the recipient. Else, they are called as food additives. When adulterants are used in illicit drugs, they are called cutting agents, whereas the deliberate addition of toxic adulterants to food or other products for human consumption is termed as poisoning. Research Methodology:
In this project we have looked at various reports and case studies available publicly and gathered secondary data from various sources. This has helped us analyze the situation of food adulteration with a wider perspective. Findings:
In a research paper published by Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences, it was discovered that the instance of food adulteration is the highest in rural areas due to ignorance of customers and illiteracy. The customers generally do check the weight and MRP, but rarely check for adulterants and other ingredients. This practice is rampant in rural areas. It was found out that edibles like cloves, supari, tea, chillies etc were the most adulterated products. This adulteration is mainly done by the shopkeepers intentionally to increase the weight of the product and/or improve the appearance of the products. The adulterants added were mostly cheaply and easily available. There have been numerous other cases of food adulteration which have come to light. For example in 2008 Coke and Pepsi, the world’s two leading soft drink makers landed into trouble after a study by an NGO called Centre for Science and Environment. This study concluded that these soft drinks had lethal toxins like DDT, Lindane etc mixed in them, this lead to a global backlash against Coke and Pepsi. CSE discovered that Pepsi contained 36 times the permissible levels of pesticides and Coke contained 30 times. Another case is just before Diwali the demand for sweets is very high. As the manufacturers cannot cope up with the increased demand, resort to food adulteration to make a quick buck. During this time rampant food adulteration is witnessed in products like milk, cheese, khoya, ghee, and oil and wheat flour. Example in 2012 just before Diwali, PFA officials took a sample of 51 sweets from Ludhiana and Chandigarh. Out of these at least 8 were found unsafe and 2 were completely unfit for human consumption. This shows the level of adulteration, which is going on unchecked and is playing with the health of people. The health minister in 2011 admitted that the average food adulteration is around 11% in India, which is a very high number, considering this is a very critical issue, pertaining to people’s health. It has also been seen that the maximum number of food adulteration cases are seen in Uttar Pradesh. Just recently in 2012a study was conducted by FSSAI across 33 states in India, which yielded horrifying results. It showed that milk in India is adulterated with detergent, fat and even urea besides water. In the study a random sample of milk from 1791 places was taken which were spread across 33 states. It showed that a dismal 31.5% of the samples taken conformed to the FSSAI standards while the rest 68.4% failed the test. Why Food Adulteration?
Food adulteration under the law includes both willful adulteration of food and "substandard" foods that do not conform to the prescribed food standards but are not done intentionally. Three major underlying causes of food adulteration are:
Inadequate availability- It doesn’t meet the demands of the consumers that prompt the unscrupulous food traders for earning more money. Dishonesty of food traders- Their incentive to earn more by false ways. This is similar to other thefts prevalent in modern society like theft, burglary, bank looting or murder. Ignorance of Standards- All food standards after they are developed are circulated by government notification for the knowledge of all traders. But for small traders, there still exists a gap of knowledge that hinders them to follow standards. Hence, all considerations for prevention of food adulteration should, be focussed on above three major underlying causes ; and it is obvious that prevention is undoubtedly the most difficult task. How Prevalent is Food Adulteration?
This is a question which is being posed for the last few decades which still doesn’t have clear answer. The statement issued by government authorities on the basis of samples checked and the number prosecuted indicates that about 14 to 15 per cent of samples lifted are found to be adulterated. Such data from the government reports could be regarded as the most distorted statistics as these are based on the samples lifted that could be biased. Anyone having a little knowledge of statistics would immediately come to the conclusion that this is the most undependable estimate of prevalence of food adulteration in the country. On the other extreme are the views of the consumer that almost all foods in the country are adulterated by the unscrupulous food traders. It is obvious that the real answer lies in-between the two extremes. Some Adultered Foods in market:
Turmeric, dals and pulses such as moong or channa: The adulterant is Kesari Dal and Metanil Yellow . They are added to enhance the yellow colour. Their harmful effect are that these are highly carcinogenic and if continuously consumed over a long period of time, can also cause stomach disorders. Green chillies, green peas and other vegetables: The adulterant is Malachite Green. It is added to accentuate the brightness and the glowing green colour of the vegetable. Mustard seeds and mustard oil: The adulterant is Argemone seeds used to act as adding bulk and weight. Papaya seeds again used to add bulk .The consumption of these can result in causing epidemic dropsy and severe glaucoma. The more susceptible age group are the young children and senior citizens with poor immunity. Paneer, khoya, condensed milk and milk: The adulterant here is starch which is used to make it thick and rich in texture. The harmful effects of adding starch are , that its unhygienic, contains unprocessed water and can cause stomach disorders. The nutritional value of the ingredient is greatly reduced by starch. Ice cream: Here 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. Black pepper: Here adulterant is Papaya seeds (used to add bulk).It 's harmful effect is that Papaya seeds can cause serious liver problems and stomach disorders. Some other adulterants: The starch in rice powder or wheat flour, often added to thicken cream, could be identified by the blue colour produced by a dilute solution of iodine in aqueous potassium iodide. Red wine adulterated with the juice of bilberries or elderberries produced a deep blue precipitate with lead acetate. Of all forms of adulteration the most reprehensible was the use of poisonous colouring matters in the manufacture of jellies and sweets. The bright colours used to attract children often contained lead, copper or mercury salts 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 period. Coal-tar colours are employed a great deal, pickles and canned vegetables are sometimes coloured green with copper salts. Adulteration in water: By manipulating and using the minimum recommended water treatment standard to provide protection against viral and bacterial waterborne diseases, water is being adequately chlorinated. The chlorine treatment alone, as used in the routine disinfection of water, may not kill some enteric viruses and the parasitic organisms that cause the problems of giardiasis, amoebiasis, and cryptosporidiosis. Impact of food adulteration by Businesses on Government and Society Society:
The past prime ministers of India have often claimed that corruption is a universal problem, not just confined to India alone. Same seems to be applicable with food adulteration. The players involved in such activities are surprisingly always a step ahead of the regulatory bodies and safety agencies when it comes to the detection of adulteration levels and quality control. Moreover, their techniques seem to becoming more and more sophisticated over time. In fact, food fraud in itself constitutes a high tech industry since the economic gains through the adulteration processes are huge. Costlier the food products, the more are the incentives associated with mimicking the original product with cheap alternatives. Milk, pulses, saffron, honey, coffee, certain types of oils, dry fruits, etc are considered as some of the heavily adulterated food items that are targets due to ease of doing fraud and economic benefits associated as a result of the frauds. Food fraud is a collective term that encompasses the thoughtful substitution, addition, tinkering or falsification of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product for monetary or economic benefit. A more specific type of fraud is the deceitful addition of non-authentic substances or exclusion or replacement of original and authentic substances without the purchaser's knowledge for gain of the seller. Food adulteration may be more risky than traditional threats to the food supply since the adulterants used in these activities often are unconventional and formed to avoid detection through routine analyses. The vast majority of food fraud is primarily technical and economical. However, there are some cases where there can be serious health consequences. When it comes to food fraud no other country can beat India. This is because this is a country where everyone has unlimited freedom to indulge in such fraudulent activities with no possibility of retribution. Though food laws that exist in India are comparable to international standards, there is very little action and monitory at the ground level to monitor or detect adulterated foods in the market or punish the guilty. Milk is mentioned as one of the top adulterated products but can any country beat the ingenuity of the Indian fraudsters in evolving milk completely without a cow or a buffalo, using ingredients like detergents, urea, cheap oil etc. that competes with genuine milk in the market with complete impunity? Our Chinese counterparts may be providing close competition by using the deadly Melamine to increase protein values in milk for economic gains! Saffron is another commodity that attracts fraudsters like the honey beckoning the bees! Consumers are continually advised by well-meaning experts/pundits that they should go for branded food products marketed by reputed and credible food manufacturers that become expensive and many a times is unaffordable. With every passing day, the Food adulteration in India seems to be getting deadlier. Earlier, we had a few unscrupulous dairy farmers in western Uttar Pradesh who indulged in inventing synthetic milk , which is a deadly cocktail of urea, caustic soda and vegetable oil. Then we faced the reports revealing fruits, specially mangoes, being ripened with calcium carbide and now, we are faced with the reports of formalin used to make the fish being made to appear fresh. All these adulterants such as calcium carbide and formalin etc are banned from use in all food items - whether raw or packaged – the reason being they are known to be toxic. Even some of them have been classified as carcinogens or cancer causing substances. This shocking situation is indicative of a deeper malaise in the Indian food regulatory regime. In the past two decades, the food industry has grown by leaps and bounds. But, on the other hand, food regulation has hardly kept pace. In order to address the situation in legislative manner, the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act has been replaced with a broad-based food safety law and a body called the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. However, even this change made no difference at the ground level. Instead of tackling adulteration and the issues of food safety, the authority appears to be preoccupied with the issues connected with the packaged food industry. It is high time that the food regulators tighten its belt. Government:
Although the government has set up various bodies and acts to curb this menace, there has not been much headway in this direction. The food adulteration continues to be rampant in India, but this is not due to the absence of rules of bodies to see to it. This is because of the inability of government to follow them up. The attitude of the officials has been callous to find a solution to this problem. It has been seen officials change the findings many times before presenting to the court. Seeing this situation, the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA) of 1954 was replaced by the Food Safety & Standards Act in 2006, which came into force in 2011. But even the FSSA seems to be a failure like its previous counterpart. We can see this from the following example. The Human Rights Defence Forum filed an RTI in Kerala in 2012, which revealed that 95,261 samples were tested between 2004 and 2012,out of which 2,190 food samples were found to be adulterated but the authorities initiated cases in only 1,912 cases. Out of these also only about 660 were convicted, to top it up those who were convicted were fined a meagre amount of Rs. 2000. Is Rs. 2000 fine the punishment for playing with the health of society? The FSSA has created a lot of confusion in terms of registration and licensing and also in the implementation of the Act across the nation. This shows that the law is still incomplete in many aspects. In the case of unsafe food, there's provision in the act for up to seven years imprisonment with a maximum fine of Rs.10 lakh. If death caused due to adulterated food items, an imprisonment of 7 years to a full life term can be given, along with a fine of up to Rs. 10 Lakh. The new act also has a clause of compensation for any injury of death caused due to adulterated food, which has to be paid by the business found adulterating food. PROCEDURE FOR SAMPLING AND ANALYSIS BY OFFICIALS
Any food Inspector can go and inspect any place of his choice where any article of food is manufactured, processed or stored for sale or stored for the manufacture of any other item of food for sale or exposed or displayed for sale or where any adulterant is manufactured or kept and take samples of such items of food or adulterant for analysis. Then, a notice will be issued by the Inspector in writing to the seller indicating his intention. Three samples can be taken and the seller is required to affix his signature onto them. One of the samples is sent for analysis to Public Analyst under intimation to the Local Health Authority. How to Prevent Food Adulteration?
How can we eradicate Food Adulteration? But the sad part, like any other crime, food adulteration would continue. But, definitely we can control it. In India, there are two extreme views which are in circulation. According to one view, we have to coexist with this crime for years but with suitable measures it could be brought down to a low level. The second view is that, with severe deterrent punishment and a strict enforcement of the legal measures, food adulteration can be eradicated almost to a stage of non-existence. It is difficult to say which the real answer is. At the moment, one could identify three different views coming from three different angles - from the enforcers of the control measures, the consumers and the traders - the three partners in the prevention of food adulteration. The enforcers that mean the government, municipal bodies and all others responsible directly or indirectly with the control of food adulteration will agree that the control of this menace needs a number of measures; and only legal enforcement will not be enough. The basic requirements will be providing adequate food supply at a reasonable price, setting up of realistic food standards, the minimum basic honesty on the part of the traders and the law enforcers, and a harsh deterrent punishment for those who commit this crime. It has been mentioned for decades that if deterrent punishment is prescribed for food adulteration, this crime will disappear. A famous statement in the past was "Hang them on the nearest lamp post and adulteration will disappear" But this alone will not work. There is now a provision under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act and Rules that in extreme cases, life imprisonment could be awarded to those who commit food adulteration which is extremely injurious for health. Though this provision exists, so far not one person has been given this sentence. It is extremely difficult to interpret what is dangerous for the health of a human being Recommendations:
The government on its part can conduct various campaigns and make consumers aware about their rights and responsibilities and make complaint procedure friendly. For example, India For Safe Food is a movement for change amongst Indian farmers, consumers and the government to ensure that all Indians have access to safe food, devoid of toxic substances. This movement is being spearheaded by ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) The awareness levels should be at least to the extent of identifying the difference between the natural and aesthetic attributes [texture, appearance & taste] of foods and accepting the natural ones to the extent possible. Only when the people are aware of their rights to demand pure and nutritive food instead of becoming brunt and suffering quietly and take to task the unscrupulous traders and manufacturer by way of filling public interest litigation in court, then only such serious social evil of food adulteration can be aborted to certain extent. Honest implementation is the key approach. Prevention of food adulteration goes very closely with the establishment of food standards. The Central Committee of Food Standards, a statutory body in the Directorate-General of Health Services, Government of India, is responsible for laying down realistic standards. However, one should realise that the standards should be such which are enforceable and which are realistic. For instance, laying down a standard like "carbide should not be used for ripening of fruits" is only a wishful thinking because the rules do not prescribe how the standard can be enforced. A standard which is not enforceable is not a standard at all. Secondly, a standard must be realistic. The present standard that not a grain of Kesari Dal should be present in any other sample of cereals or grams is not realistic since in is not practicable in the present agricultural practices. Even if 3 per cent of Kesari Dal is present as "foreign body", which is permissible under the Rules, it is certainly not injurious foi health. It does not mean pleading for the particular admixture of Kesari Dal with cereals. But it is being pointed out that standard should consider the agriculture and other practices in the country and make those which are realistic. Third party auditing of the process to identify existing & probable lacunae of the system. Stipulating the practically feasible rules, requirements and regulations on the adulterants and updating them at regular intervals. Stringent monitoring of the implementation.
Government should regularly interact with the industry to understand their concerns. In the interest of our own health and that of future generations and for protecting the environment and supporting livelihood of farmers programs should be conducted and also government should promote organic/ecologically sustainable farming and ban at least the pesticides that have been banned else where. It is difficult to say exactly how to curb food adulteration.. At the moment, one could identify three different views coming from three different angles - from the enforcers of the control measures, the consumers and the traders - the three partners in the prevention of food adulteration. The enforcers which mean the government, municipal bodies and all others responsible directly or indirectly with the control of food adulteration will opine that the control of this menace needs a number of measures; only legal enforcement will not be enough. The basic requirements are providing adequate food supply at a reasonable price, setting up of realistic food standards which are enforceable and which can be attained by majority of the traders (not only the big food industries but the common agricultural producers, traders and the medium and petty food processor), the minimum basic honesty on the part of the traders and the law enforcers, a band of committed inspectorate staff and of course, a harsh deterrent punishment for those who commit this crime. It has been mentioned for decades that if deterrent punishment is prescribed for food adulteration, this crime will disappear. A famous statement in the past was "Hang them on the nearest lamp post and adulteration will disappear" But this alone will not work. There is now a provision under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act and Rules that in extreme cases, life imprisonment could be awarded to those who commit food adulteration which is extremely injurious for health. Though this provision exists, so far not one person has been given this sentence. It is extremely difficult to interpret what is dangerous for the health of a man.
The consumers' view is certainly most important because the prevention of food adulteration machinery is designed for their benefit. The consumers feel by and large that an honest enforcement will certainly reduce the crime and along with that is the need to award harsh punishment, not only the provision of punishment under the law. In this connection, it is pointed out that the consumers who can play a very vital role in food adulteration are "dumb and gullible" in this country. The consumer movement has not taken roots at all excepting in a few instances in the big cities. References:
FOOD ADULTERATION By V. Lakshmi, R.V.LABS, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India (Published in International Journal for Science Inventions Today in 2012) PREVENTION OF FOOD ADULTERATION: SOME THOUGHTS By Kalyan Bagchi (Published in Health and Population- Perspectives & Issues in 1984) Buying Practices and Prevalence of Adulteration in Selected Food items in a Rural Area of Wardha District: A Cross - Sectional Study (Publishes in The Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences) Excerpt from the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act & Rules The FAC-Prevention of Food Adulteration Cases including Food Safety & Standards Act A Commentary from - Book review-The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act & Rules (Central and States with State Amendments Text from the fight against food adulteration.