Medically reviewed by Dr. Unsa Mohsin.
I am sure it is old news for you if I tell you that everything that we eat has some additive that renders its purity. From the local eateries adding donkey meat to their beef products, to your doodh wala giving you half milk and half water, adulterated food has become our reality.
And no matter how ‘okay’ we may be with eating impure food, it’s about time we realize that adulterated food has become a catharsis for our nation.
What is Food Adulteration and how is it being done?
The act of intentionally lowering the quality of food is called adulteration. It’s either done by adding things that would either increase the quantity of the food, or consists of an unsafe color or food additive. It is also possible that a certain food substance contains poisonous substances which may render the food hazardous to health.
Packaging hazards and the addition of metallic substances through packaged foods are examples of unintentional adulteration of food. Not keeping the environment where the food is being manufactured completely clean is also a way of unintentional adulteration of food.
Keeping a lookout for foods adulterated in Pakistan
There is a long list of foods that are subjected to adulteration in Pakistan. Starting off with milk, it has water added to it. Along with that, turmeric and red chili powders usually contain yellow soil and red brick powder respectively. Fresh vegetables and fruits are adulterated by adding fertilizers and pesticides to increase the production.
It is also believed that our poultry farms are regularly injecting growth hormones to the chickens. Many gynecologists also believe that the rising instances of PCOS in women are directly related to consuming adulterated chicken.
What’s worth mentioning is that the so called packaged foods we consume are also heavily adulterated. Adding bleaching powder, surf and salt to packaged milk is now a regular occurrence. Formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen, is used as a preservative in certain packaged products as well.
Identifying the problems caused by Adulterated Food
The regular instances of food poisoning are a classic example of a health problem caused by adulterated foods. Diarrhea, vomiting and stomach problems in general, despite of eating homemade food are also related to the regular consumption of adulterated food.
Apart from that, health problems as big as brain damage, heart attacks, and cancer are also in close connection with the diet we consume.
Detection and Prevention of Adulterated Foods
It’s high time that the detection and prevention of adulterated foods is regularly done by the government. According to a report, food safety raids were conducted across Pakistan. They founded 1000s of kilograms of adulterated food products, ranging from tea to milk and spices.
Even though it’s the government’s responsibility to take action against intentional adulteration of food, you can test your food out for adulterants as well.
|S.No||Food||Adulterant||Method of Deduction|
|1.||Milk||Water||Put a drop of milk on a polished slanting surface. The drop of pure milk will slant slowly, leaving a white mark. While that of one mixed with water will flow immediately, leaving no mark.|
|2.||Sugar||Chalk Powder||Dissolve 10 gm of sample in a glass of water. Allow it to settle. If the chalk is present, it will settle down at the bottom.|
|3.||Wheat, Bajra and other grains||Ergot (Fungus containing poisonous substance)||Purple black, longer sized grains can be seen by the naked eye. To test, put the grains in a glass of 20% salt solution. Wait for it to settle. The ergot will float, while the natural grains will settle down.|
|4.||Pulses||Lead Chromate||Take 5 gm of pulse and shake it in 5ml of water. Add a few drops of HCl. If the color turns pink, the presence of lead chromate is indicated.|
|Colored Saw Dust||Put the turmeric powder in a glass and add HCl in it. It will turn pink in color. If the color disappears on dilution, the turmeric powder is real. If it stays pink, dust is present.|
|6.||Powdered Spices||Common Salt||Taste for addition of salt.|
Towards the end
Adulterated food has become a pretty harsh reality about our lives today. What we eat is never 100% pure. But as sad as it is, measures are needed to be taken in order to make the quality of our lives better. For starters, keeping a lookout on what we are eating is an important step. Growing your own fruits and vegetables at home can be another step towards bringing change.
Apart from that, petitions should be signed by the masses to force the government to take strict action.
Till then, take care of yourself and pass this information forward.
Let’s bring change!