One of the biggest concerns that we face today, despite taking the healthy eating habit route, is food adulteration. With an increasing demand for organic and healthy food, most of the food that we consume today has its own side-effects, caused mainly due to adulteration. Consuming adulterated food can lead to harmful effects on health such as cancer, infertility, brain damage, etc. According to a report from The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) released in 2014-2015, nearly one-fifth of the food products tested were found adulterated.
What Makes Our Food Harmful?
Mineral Oil: Mineral oil added to edible oil can cause high risk cancer.
Lead: Lead chromate is usually known to be added in turmeric powder and other spices and can cause anaemia, paralysis, brain damage and abortions/miscarriages. Lead added to water, natural and processed food can lead to poisoning, foot drop, insomnia, constipation, anaemia, and mental retardation.
Cobalt: Cobalt added to water and liquors can cause cardiac disorders.
Non-Permitted Colours: Non- permitted colours such as metanil yellow, when used beyond the safe limit, can cause allergies, hyperactivity, liver damage, infertility, anaemia, cancer and birth defects.
Following is a list of the most commonly adulterated foods which we consume regularly:
One of the most essential food items, milk is usually adulterated with water, chalk powder, detergent and even urea. This type of adulteration can cause severe stomach problems.
2. Wheat And Other Grains
Wheat is another food item that is very commonly adulterated with ergot, a fungus containing poisonous substances and is known to be extremely injurious to health.
Shiny and polished vegetables always attract us and are mostly sold as 'fresh in the market'. But one must be cautious while buying them. Malachite green, a chemical dye carcinogenic in nature, provides the shine to the otherwise pale-looking vegetables and fruits. Additionally, wax is another cheap substance that is used for adulteration since it is affordable for the smaller vendors.
Due to its unduly high price, honey is commonly adulterated with molasses sugar to increase the quantity in the packaged bottles.
Dals or pulses are usually adulterated with metanil yellow, a principal non-permitted food colour that is used extensively in India. The effect of long-term consumption of metanil yellow, especially on the developing and adult brain causes neurotoxicity (form of toxicity that can have adverse effect on structure/function of the nervous system).
India, being a rich source of natural spices, gets them exported globally. Business dealers, in order to take advantage and earn more profit, often add artificial colours or mix cheaper substances to the original products. Often, pepper seeds are replaced by papaya seeds, asafoetida is adulterated with soapstone, and chilli powder with brick powder.
To garnish sweets, sweetshops use silver vark instead of silver foil. These silver varks contain aluminium and are bad for our health. Also, in many shops, instead of khoya, many use starches to prepare the sweets.
While it is important to consume healthy food, it cannot be done at the cost of your health. It is extremely important to check the product labels and the ingredients before buying them. It is better to use organic products and in order to keep yourself away from the effects of pesticides, start a kitchen garden or terrace garden. Ensure that the food you eat is freshly-bought and prepared instantly and be aware of the ingredients added. Adulteration of food and the amount of chemicals that we consume from various food items can be controlled to a large extent with conscious effort.
By Dr. Rajshekhar C Jaka, Surgical Oncology, BR Life SSNMC Hospital
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