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‘​​Food is medicine’

I strongly believe in this, being in the field of nutrition for over 10 years, I’ve used food in healing, in defending against harmful antigen and also as a precautionary tool in avoiding diseases. But with so many cases of cancer, auto-immune diseases, Anemia, Osteoporosis, I wonder if we’re really getting enough nutrients through our diet?

We Indians sometimes belittle westerners for the frozen/canned foods in their regular diet. We boast that we make fresh roti’s every day, use farm-fresh milk and vegetables. We purchase food-items from big branded shops that are supposed to be reliable. But are our foods really pure? Have you ever wondered about the possible adulteration in your food?

What is adulteration?

Food adulteration is the process in which the quality of food is lowered either by the addition of inferior quality material or by extraction of valuable ingredient. This is done by unscrupulous vendors to gouge bigger profits or to exploit high demand of some foods. But most such adulterants make the food products unsafe for human consumption.

What can we do?

Other than buying foodstuffs from reliable vendors and looking for certifications, we can do some simple tests at home to check for adulteration.

FoodAdulterantTest
MilkSoap/detergentShake 5-10 ml milk with equal amount of water. It shouldn’t form lather.
Synthetic MilkFeels soapy when rubbed between fingers, tastes a little bitter, turns yellow on heating.
StarchAdd a few drops of tincture Iodin, if it forms blue colour, it has starch
UreaAdd soyabean/arhar powder to milk, mix thoroughly, after 5 min, dip a red litmus paper, if it changes to blue, it has urea
HoneyGlucose/Invert Sugar/Corn Syrup/StarchFill a glass with water, add a Tbsp of honey, adulterated honey will dissolve in water and you’ll see it around the glass, but pure honey will settle right at the bottom of the glass.
Turmeric powderMetanil yellow colour, lead chromate, chalk powderAdd a tsp of turmeric to a glass of warm water, do not stir it and leave it still for a while. Check after 20 min, if the powder settles down at the bottom of the glass with clear water above, the turmeric is pure, cloudy water indicates possible adulteration.
SaltChalk powderAdd a spoonful of salt to a glass of water and stir. If the solution turns white & a residue settles at the bottom it indicates presence of chalk, clear solution indicates purity.
Red chilli powderBrick powder, artificial colourAdd a tsp of chilli powder to a glass of water and stir it. A swirl of bright red colour indicates the presence of artificial colour. While the settling of gritty sediment at the bottom of the glass indicates the presence of sawdust/brick powder, as these things sediment faster than red chilli.
Butter/GheeVanaspati/vegetable oil/starchAdd a tsp of melted ghee/butter, add a pinch of sugar and shake vigorously. If vegetable oil is present, red colour will appear at the bottom
Melt a small quantity, pour it into a glass jar and refrigerate it. Presence of separate layers indicate mixing of other oils.
Add a few drops of Tincture Iodine to 10 ml molten ghee, Appearance of purple colour indicates added starch
Coconut OilOther cheaper oils (like palm oil)Refrigerate oil in a glass container, formation of separate layers indicate mixing of other oils
TeaUsed/processed tea leaves that have been artificially colouredSprinkle a tsp of tea powder on a moist blotting paper. If the colour of paper changes to yellow/orange, it indicates added colour. Pure tea only releases colour in hot water
Green Peas/Green Chillis/ Other green vegetablesMalchite GreenSoak the sample in warm water for 30 min, then rub gently. If green colour is added it will show up in the water.

You can make use of all these tests and ensure that the food you and your family consumes isn’t adulterated.

To lodge a complaint against a vendor selling adulterated food, you can visit foodsmart portal by Govt of India.

Be healthy, be aware, be safe!

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