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Food Adulteration in India

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Food adulteration is one of the serious challenges in the Indian society. Despite various measures and penalties, the problem continues to remain a big challenge for the country. Consumers around the country are increasingly more stringent laws besides demanding information on the source and reassurance of the origin and details on reprocessed food.

What is food adulteration?

Food adulteration is an act of adding or mixing of poor quality, inferior, harmful, substandard, useless or unnecessary substances to foods. This act of spoiling the nature and quality of food items is considered food adulteration.

What are the types of food adulteration?

Milk Adulteration

Milk adulteration is one of the most common adulterations in India. Milk is most commonly diluted with water, this leads lose in its nutritional value and water contaminates milk ensuring health problems. Apart from water, many kinds of liquid such as soya milk, starch, groundnut milk, and wheat flour are added to milk. This also makes the milk less nutritious and it results in the quickest contamination of milk.

Adulteration of oils

Vegetable oils and fats have a big contribution in our diet as cooking or frying oil, salad oil or in food product formulation. But these are adulterated with cheap oil. One of the common practices adopted by unscrupulous traders and middle men is mixing palm oil or cheap edible oils with cooking oils such as easily available rice bran oil or waste vegetable oil. Besides, there have been instances of packets of sunflower, soybean and groundnut containing cheap cotton seed oil. With the increase in use of olive oil for its health benefits mainly for salad dressing, the most common adulteration in olive oil is mixing extra-virgin olive oil with low-grade oils. Apart from this, Canola oil is mixed with olive oil and then the mixture is chemically deodorised, coloured and possibly flavoured to make it appear as "extra-virgin" oil. Many also use colza oil to mix with the vegetable olive oil.

Adulteration in food grains and other products

Adulteration in food grains and other essential commodities is large and continues to health of the consumers. Here is a list of food articles and adulterants.




Bengal Gram dhal & Thoor Dhal

Kesai dhal

lahyrism cancer


Used tea leaves processed and coloured

Liver Disorder

Coffee Powder

Tamarind seed, date seed powder, Chicory powder

Diarrhoea, Stomach disorder, Giddiness and joint pain


Unhygenic water & Starch

Stomach disorder


Starch & Less Fat content

Less - nutritive value

Wheat and other food grains (Bajra)

Ergot (a fungus containing poisonous substance)



Chalk powder

Stomach - Disorder

Black powder

Papaya Seeds and light berrys

Stomach, liver problems

Mustard powder

Argemone seeds

Epidemic dropsy & Glucoma


Foreign resins galbanum, colophony resin


Turmeric powder

Yellow aniline dyes, Non-permitted colourants like metanil yellow, Tapioca starch

Carcinogenic and stomach disorders

Chilli powder

Brick powder, saw dust, artificial colours

Stomach problems, Cancer

Government initiatives

In India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is completely responsible for providing safe food to the citizens. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 has laid down guidelines to provide pure and wholesome foods to consumers. The Act was last amended in 1986 to make punishments more stringent and to empower consumers further. But recently, the government is planning to enforce harsher punishment. The FSSAI has issued the draft amendments to the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, which was passed in 2006 but the regulations were notified only in 2011. Among key amendments, FSSAI has proposed to include a new section to crack down on food adulteration. For example, "Any person...adds an adulterant to food so as to render it injurious for human consumption with an inherent potential to cause his death or is likely to cause grievous hurt, irrespective of the fact whether it causes actual injury or not, shall be punishable for a term which shall not be less than 7 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and also fine which shall not be less than Rs 10 lakh," the FSSAI said.

Among other amendments, FSSAI has proposed setting of state food safety authorities so that this law can be enforced in letter and spirit. It has also proposed increase in the punishment for obstructing, impersonating, intimidating and threatening and assaulting a food safety officer. The regulatory body has recommended imprisonment of not less than 6 months and up to two years, besides penalty of up to Rs 5 lakh. At present, the imprisonment is up to three months and fine is up to Rs 1 lakh. One of the among the new stringent conditions of the FSSAI is that it has further proposed that a person convicted under this law will have to pay fees and other expenses incidental to the analysis of any food or food contact article in respect of which the conviction is obtained and any other reasonable expenses incurred by the prosecution. This has been proposal was made in line with provision of Singapore's Sale of Food Act.


Protecting the health of the consumer along with rights must be the primary goal. Besides, preventing fraud or wrong practices are important and challenging issues facing the food industry. So, the food industry and manufacturers must take also perform their part to curb the menace of food adulteration. But, refusing to help by that adulterants are unknown, and difficultly to recognize using the targeted screening methods from the business communities cannot be accepted. Besides, these manufacturers and companies must also provide and confirm the authenticity and source of food products and their components. Besides, FSSAI proposal to enforce stringent law to combat the growing measures must be implemented.

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