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Food Adulteration
Food is one of the essentials to sustain life. Access to pure, nutritious food, free from any type of adulteration is the genuine expectation of every citizen. One works hard and earns to satisfy the hunger. But at the end of the day, many of us are not sure of quality of food we are eating. We may be eating a dangerous dye, sawdust, soap stone, industrial starch aluminum foil and so on!

Consuming adulterated food for a continuous period of time may prove hazardous to our life. We may get subjected to food poisoning, crippling diseases, some kind of deficiency diseases or toxicity or even cancer due to the presence of carcinogenic compounds.

Food is adulterated if its quality is lowered or affected by the addition of substances which are injurious to health or by the removal of substances which are nutritious. It is defined as 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 colored or otherwise treated, to improve its appearance or if it contains any added substance injurious to health.
• For whatever reasons its quality is below the Standard

Adulterated food is dangerous because it may be toxic and can affect health and it could deprive nutrients essential for proper growth and development.

Very often food is adulterated by merchants and traders who are unscrupulous and want to make a quick profit. But shortages and increasing prices, consumer demands for variety in foods, a lack of awareness, negligence, indifference and lethargy among consumers and inadequate enforcement of food laws and food safety measures also lead to food adulteration.

Some of the common adulterated foods are milk and milk products, atta, edible oils, cereals, condiments (whole and ground), pulses, coffee, tea, confectionary, baking powder, nonalcoholic beverages, vinegar, besan and curry powder.

Adulteration in food is normally present in its most crude form; prohibited substances are either added partly or wholly substituted. In India normally the contamination/adulteration in food is done either for financial gain or due to carelessness and lack in proper hygienic condition of processing, storing, transportation and marketing. This ultimately results that the consumer is either cheated or often become victim of diseases. Such types of adulteration are quite common in developing countries or backward countries. However, adequate precautions taken by the consumer at the time of purchase of such produce can make him alert to avoid procurement of such food. It is equally important for the consumer to know the common adulterants and their effect on health.

S.No Adulterant Foods Commonly Involved Diseases or Health Effects
  Adulterants in food
1 Argemone seeds Argemone oil Mustard seeds Edible oils and fats Epidemic dropsy, Glaucoma,

Cardiac arrest
2 Artificially colored foreign seeds As a substitute for cumin seed, Poppy seed, black pepper Injurious to health
3 Foreign leaves or exhausted tea leaves, saw dust artificially coloured Tea Injurious to health, cancer
4 TCP Oils Paralysis
5 Rancid oil Oils Destroys vitamin A and E
6 Sand, marble chips, stones, filth Food grains, pulses etc. Damage digestive tract
7 Lathyrus sativus Khesari dal alone or

Mixed in other pulses
Lathyrism (crippling spastic paraplegia)
  Chemical Contamination  
8 Mineral oil (white oil, petroleum fractions) Edible oils and fats,

Black pepper
9 Lead  chromate Turmeric whole and powdered, mixed spices Anemia, abortion, paralysis, brain damage
10 Methanol Alcoholic liquors Blurred vision, blindness, death
11 Arsenic Fruits such as apples sprayed over with lead arsenate Dizziness, chills, cramps, paralysis, death
12 Barium Foods contaminated by rat poisons (Barium  carbonate) Violent peristalisis, arterial hypertension, muscular twitching, convulsions, cardiac disturbances
13 Cadmium Fruit juices, soft drinks, etc. in contact with cadmium plated vessels or equipment. Cadmium contaminated water and shell-fish ‘Itai-itai (ouch-ouch) disease,  Increased salivation, acute gastritis, liver and kidney damage, prostrate cancer
14 Cobalt Water, liquors Cardiac insufficiency and mycocardial failure
15 Lead Water, natural and processed food Lead poisoning (foot-drop, insomnia, anemia, constipation, mental retardation, brain damage)

16 Copper Food Vomiting, diarrhoea
17 Tin Food Colic, vomiting
18 Zinc Food Colic, vomiting
19 Mercury Mercury fungicide treated seed grains or mercury contaminated fish

Brain damage, paralysis, death
NOTE: Safe limits have been prescribed for above metals in different food. Continuous use of food contaminated with these metals beyond safe limits may cause these diseases
  Bacterial contamination  
20 Bacillus cereus Cereal products, custards, puddings, sauces Food infection (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea)
21 Salmonella spp. Meat and meat products, raw vegetables, salads, shell-fish, eggs and egg products, warmed-up leftovers Salmonellosis (food infection usually with fever and chills)
22 Shigella sonnei Milk, potato, beans, poultry, tuna, shrimp, moist mixed foods Shigellosis (bacillary dysentery)
23 Staphylococcus aureus

Entero-toxins-A,B,C,D or E
Dairy products, baked foods especially custard or cream-filled foods, meat and meat products, low-acid frozen foods, salads, cream sauces, etc. Increased salivation, vomiting, abdominal cramp, diarrhoea, severe thirst, cold sweats, prostration
24 Clostridium botulinus toxins

A,B,E or F
Defectively canned low or medium-acid foods; meats, sausages, smoked vacuum-packed fish, fermented food etc. Botulism (double vision, muscular paralysis, death due to respiratory failure)
25 Clostridium.perfringens

type A
Milk improperly processed or canned meats, fish and gravy stocks Nausea, abdominal pains, diarrhoea, gas formation
26 Diethyl stilbestrol (additive in animal feed) Meat Sterlites, fibroid tumors etc.
27 3,4 Benzopyrene Skoked food Cancer
28 Excessive solvent residue Solvent extracted oil, oil cake etc. Carcinogenic effect
29 Non-food grade or contaminated packing material Food Blood clot, angiosarcoma, cancer etc.
30 Non-permitted colour or permitted food colour beyond safe limit Coloured food Mental retardation, cancer and other toxic effect.
31 BHA and BHT beyond safe limit Oils and fats Allergy, liver damage, increase in serum chloresterol etc.
32 Monosodium glutamate(flour) (beyond safe limit) Chinese food, meat and meat products Brain damage, mental retardation in infants
33 Coumarin and dihydro coumarin Flavoured food Blood anticoagulant
34 Food flavours beyond safe limit Flavoured food Chances of liver cancer
35 Brominated vegetable oils Cold drinks Anemia, enlargement of heart
36 Sulphur dioxide and sulphite beyond safe limit In variety of food as preservative Acute irritation of the gastro-intestinal tracts etc.
37 Artificial sweetners beyond safe limit Sweet foods Chances of cancer
  Fungal contamination
38 Aflatoxins Aspergillus flavus-contaminated foods such as groundnuts, cottonseed, etc. Liver damage and cancer
39 Ergot alkaloids from Claviceps purpurea Toxic alkaloids, ergotamine, ergotoxin and ergometrine groups Ergot-infested bajra, rye meal or bread Ergotism (St.Anthony’s fire-burning sensation in extremities, itching of skin, peripheral gangrene)
40 Toxins from

Fusarium sporotrichioides
Grains (millet, wheat, oats, rye,etc) Alimentary toxic aleukia(ATA) (epidemic panmyelotoxicosis)
41 Toxins from Fusarium sporotrichiella Moist grains Urov disease (Kaschin-Beck disease)
42 Toxins from

Penicillium inslandicum

Penicillium atricum,

Penicillium citreovirede,

Fusarium, Rhizopus,

Yellow rice Toxic mouldy rice disease
43 Sterigmatocystin from

Aspergillus versicolour

Aspergillus nidulans and bipolaris
Foodgrains Hepatitis
44 Ascaris lumbricoides Any  raw food or water contaminated by human faces containing eggs of the parasite Ascariasis
45 Entamoeba histolytica Viral Raw vegetables and fruits Amoebic dysentery


Amoebic dysentery
46 Virus of infectious

Hepatitis (virus A)
Shell-fish, milk, unheated foods contaminated with faeces, urine and blood of infected human Amoebic dysentery

  Infectious hepatitis 47 Machupo virus Foods contaminated with rodents urine, such as cereals Amoebic dysentery

  Bolivian haemorrhagic fever Natural Contamination 48 Flouride  Drinking water, sea foods, tea, etc. Excess fluoride causes Amoebic dysentery

  fluorosis (mottling of teeth, skeletal and neurological disorders) 49 Oxalic acid Spinach, amaranth, etc. Amoebic dysentery

  Renal calculi, cramps, failure of blood to clot 50 Gossypol Cottonseed flour and cake Amoebic dysentery

  Cancer 51 Cyanogenetic compounds Bitter almonds, apple seeds, cassava, some beans etc. Amoebic dysentery

  Gastro-intestinal disturbances 52 Polycyclic Aromatic
Hydrocarbons(PAH) Smoked fish, meat, mineral oil-contaminated water, oils, fats and fish, especially shell-fish Amoebic dysentery

  Cancer 53 Phalloidine (Alkaloid) Toxic mushrooms Amoebic dysentery

  Mushroom poisoning (Hypoglycemia, convulsions, profuse watery stools, severe necrosis of liver leading to hepatic failure and death) 54 Solanine Potatoes Amoebic dysentery

  Solanine poisoning (vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea) 55 Nitrates and Nitrites  Drinking water, spinach rhubarb, asparagus, etc. and meat products Amoebic dysentery

  Methaemoglobinaemia especially in infants, cancer and tumours in the liver, kidney, trachea oesophagus and lungs. The liver is the initial site but afterwards tumours appear in other organs. 56 Asbestos (may be present in talc, Kaolin, etc. and in processed foods) Polished rice, pulses, processed foods containing anti-caking agents, etc. Amoebic dysentery

  Absorption in particulate form by the body may produce cancer 57 Pesticide residues (beyond safe limit) All types of food Amoebic dysentery

  Acute or chronic poisoning with damage to nerves and vital organs like liver, kidney, etc. 58 Antibiotics (beyond safe limit) Meats from antibiotic-fed animals Amoebic dysentery

  Multiple drug resistance hardening of arteries, heart disease

Eat protein at every meal, including breakfast.
Eliminate wheat- and flour-based products for the time being.
Reduce starch to one portion a day, and don't eat that portion during your evening meal.
Apples, pears, plums and berries all are good choices. Bananas are not.
Reduce or eliminate dairy for the time being, especially cow's milk.
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