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What is Adulteration ?
Adulteration of food means substitution of the genuine food material wholly or in part with any
cheaper or inferior substance or removal of any of its constituents, wholly or in part, which affects
adversely the nature, substance or quality of the food.

Adulteration is the act of intentionally debasing the quality of food offered for sale either by
mixture or substitution of inferior substances or by the removal of some valuable ingredient.
Adulteration in food is normally present in its most crude form Prohibited substances are
either added or partly or wholly substituted. 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. It is equally important
for the consumer to know the common adulterants and their effect on health.
In past few decades adulteration of food has become one of the most serious
problems.Consumption of adulterated food causes diseases like cancer, asthma, ulcer, etc.
Majority of adulterants used by the shopkeepers are cheap substitutes which are easily

Historically, the use of adulterants has been common sometimes dangerous substances have
been used. In the United Kingdom during the Victorian era, adulterants were common for
example, cheeses were sometimes colored with lead. Similar adulteration issues were seen in
industry in the United States, during the 19th century. There is dispute over whether these
practices declined primarily due to government regulation or to increased public awareness
and concern over the practices. In the early 21st century, cases of dangerous adulteration
occurred in the People's Republic of China.

Adulterant use was first investigated in 1820 by the German chemist Frederick Accum, who
identified many toxic metal colorings in food and drink. His work antagonized food
suppliers, and he was ultimately discredited by a scandal over his alleged mutilation of
books of the Royal Institution library. The physician Arthur Hill Hassall conducted
extensive studies in the early 1850s, which were published in The Lancet and led to the 1860
Food Adulteration Act and other legislation.[3]
At the turn of the 20th century, industrialization in the United States led to a rise in
adulteration which inspired some protest. Accounts of adulteration led the New York
Evening Post to parody:
Mary had a little lamb,
And when she saw it sicken,
She shipped it off to Packingtown,
And now it's labeled chicken.
A history of food poisoning and adulteration is given in the textbook, Death in the Pot: The
Impact of Food Poisoning on History.


We are very fortunate to be born a country which is blessed with rich soil, diversified
climate, many rivers and the great Himalayas where almost all varieties of fruits, vegetables
and cereals, etc. can be grown. In ancient times, the land was in abundance, the supply of
food was more than the demand and people used fresh food materials in most natural form.
The population spurt in our country has given rise to unemployment and poverty.

The demand for food has increased & our country has to import food grains, oil etc. from
other countries. This shortage of food and ignorance of consumers is the main cause for
adulteration of foodstuffs by the unscrupulous traders. It has become so common that the
consumers have to run from pillars to pillars to get a foodstuff which is not adulterated. The
consumers are not aware of hazards of adulteration and pay heavily for consuming
adulterated food. If the consumer knows the ways and means to check the commodities of
daily use, they can save themselves and their families from this mind-boggling problem.
The increasing number of food producers and the outstanding amount of import foodstuffs
enables the producers to mislead and cheat consumers. To differentiate those who take
advantage of legal rules from the ones who commit food adulteration is very difficult. The
consciousness of consumers would be crucial.
Ignorance and unfair market behavior may endanger consumer health and misleading can
lead to poisoning. So we need simple screening, tests for their detection. In the past few
decades, adulteration of food has become one of the serious problems. Consumption of
adulterated food causes serious diseases like cancer, diarrhea, asthma, ulcers etc. Majority
of fats, oils and butter are paraffin wax, castor oil and hydrocarbons. Red chili powder is
mixed with brick powder and pepper is mixed with dried papaya seeds. These adulterants
can be easily identified by simple chemical tests.

Procedures for testing food adulterants

in some of the food materials-

Experiment- 1


Aim- To test the presence of water and starch in the given sample of milk.

TheoryAddition of water in milk dilutes its fat contents and therefore, lowers its specific density.
Presence of water in milk may be detected by measuring its specific density. Specific density
of pure milk is always more than 1.026. Presence of starch material in milk can be detected
by exploiting the formation of blue-coloured complex with iodine or tincture of iodine.

Materials RequiredGiven samples of milk, test tube, lactometer measuring cylinder, sulphuric acid, iodine or
tincture of iodine.

Procedure(i) Put few drops of the milk sample on a smooth and oily surface. If the milk is pure
then its drops will be stable for some time and leave a white streak.
(ii) Measure the specific density of milk with lactometer
(iii) Babcock Test for Purity of Milk
This determines the fat contents in milk. About 20 mL of milk is taken with the help of
pipette in a small narrow necked graduated flask (as shown in fig. ) and H2SO4 is mixed in
it. The flask is shaken until the mixture becomes dark coloured. The acid does not affect the
fat but it dissolves other solids in milk. The flask is then centrifuged by which the fat if
forced towards the neck, being lighter than other contents. Sufficient warm water is added

to bring the fat in the narrow neck, where its exact percentage is read on the graduation
(iv) Testing the Presence of Starch in Milk
Take 5 mL of the milk in a test tube. Heat it to almost boiling. Cool and add few drops of
iodine solution or tincture of iodine and shake the contents. Appearance of blue colour in
the sample indicates the presence of starch in the milk. If it is pure, then there will be a deep
yellow colouration due to casein, a protein of milk.

CommentSpecific density test is not much reliable as specific density of diluted milk can be increased
by addition of some other compounds in it.


Aim- To test the presence of adulterants in the given sample of pure

gheeor butte
TheoryStarchy matter can be detected with iodine. Iodine forms a blue coloured complex with
starch. Vanaspati ghee gives pink colour with furfural.

Materials RequiredGiven sample of ghee or butter, test tube, test tube holder, iodine or tincture of iodine
solution, HCl, sugar etc.

Procedure(i) Detection of Starchy Matter

Take about 0.5 g of the given ghee or butter in a test tube. Add about one mL of
water to it and boil. Cool and add a drop of iodine or tincture of iodine solution.
Appearance of blue colour indicates thepresence of starchy matter in the sample.
(ii) Detection of Vanaspatyi Ghee
Take about 0.5 g of the given sample of ghee or butter in a test tube. Heat the tube
gently so that the ghee melts. Add a little sugar and HCl to it. Shake the contents

for 5 minutes. Presence of pink colour in the aqueous layer is the

indication of Vanaspati ghee in the sample.

CommentBetter results can be obtained by using 2% alcoholic solution of furfural in place of sugar.

Experiment- 3


To check the purity of given sample of oil or fat.

TheoryOils and fats are mostly adulterated with:

(a) Dyes to improve colour of the material.
(b) Paraffin wax or hydrocarbons to increase the weights of products (vegetable ghee)
(c) Cheap varieties of similar materials e.g. mustard oil is adulterated with Argemone oil.
The presence of these in fats & oils can be detected by exploiting there characteristic

Procedure(i) Detection of Dyes in Oils & Fats

(a) Take 2 gm. of the melted and filtered fat in a test tube. Add 5 mL of light petroleum to
avoid its solidification and one mL of hydrochloric acid (1:3) to it. Shake the contents
thoroughly and allow it to stand for some time. Appearance of pink colour in the
lower layer will indicate the presence of dyes.
(b) Mix 1-2 mL of the fat with same amount of mixture of conc. Sulphuric acid & glacial
acetic acid (in 1:4 ratio) and heat the mixture nearly to boiling. Pink or reddish
colour of the solution will indicate the presence of dyes.

(ii) Detection of Paraffin Wax & Hydrocarbons.

Heat small amount of unsaponifiable matter of oils with acetic anhydride. Droplets of oil
floating on the surface of unused acetic anhydride indicates the
presence of wax or hydrocarbons.
(iii) Detection Of Argemone Oil.
To small amount of oil in a test tube, add few drops of conc. HNO3 and shake. Appearance
of orange or red colour in the acid layer indicates presence of Argemone oil.
(iv) Detection of Mineral Oils
To 2 mL of oil in a test tube, add equal amount of N/2 nitric acid and heat the test tube on
water bath. Turbidity in the contents of the test tube indicates the presence of mineral oils in
the given sample.
(v) Detection of Castor Oil
To 2 mL of oil in a test tube, add 4 mL of light petroleum and shake the test tube to get a
clear solution. Now, cool the tube in ice and salt bath. Turbidity in the contents of the test
tube after cooling indicates the presence of mineral oils in the given sample.
Note- (i) Oils catch fire easily so care must be taken while heating them. Better hold the test
tube with a holder while heating.
(ii) Petroleum is inflammable so extinguish all flames while working with it.

Experiment- 4th
Aim- To test the presence of adulterants in the given sample of sugar.

TheoryCommon adulterants of sugar are washing soda, chalk powder and semolina. Sugar is
soluble in water, so if any undissolved substance is left on dissolving sugar in water, then it is
indication of adulteration in it. Washing soda and chalk powder, both give effervescence
with dil. HCl. Hence their presence in the sugar sample can be detected by treating small
amount of sugar with dil. HCl.

Materials RequiredTest tube holder, dil. HCl & distilled water.


(i) Detection of Insoluble Impurities

Take small amount of sugar in a test tube and shake it with little water for 4-5 minutes. Pure
sugar dissolves in water but insoluble impurities do not dissolve.
(ii) Detection of Chalk Powder & Washing Soda
To small amount of sugar in a test tube, add few drops of dil. HCl. Brisk effervescence of
CO2 shows the presence of chalk powder or washing soda in the given sample of sugar.
Note- Powder the sugar before testing its solubility in water.

Experiment- 5th
Aim- To test the presence of adulterants in the given sample of red chilli
TheoryRed chili powder is adulterated with either colours or brick powder. Brick powder, being heavy
than chilli powder, therefore, settles on bottom on dissolving it in a glass of in water. If colour has
been added to it, then water becomes coloured.

Materials RequiredOne beaker, glass rod, water.


(i) Detection of Artificial Colours and Brick Powder

Take a glass beaker filled with water and pour a few grams of red chilli powder in it. Stir the
mixture with the glass rod and allow it to stand for a few minutes. Appearance of brick red
colour in water shows the presence of artificial colour in red chilli. If brick powder is used, it settles
down in the beaker.

Experiment Aim- To test the presence of adulterants in

the given sample of turmeric powder.



TheoryYellow chalk powder & sawdust coloured with coaltar dye are the common adulterants
found in turmeric powder. Yellow chalk powder gives brisk effervescence with HCl whereas
coaltar dyes give violet colour with conc. HCl

Materials RequiredTest tube, holder, conc. HCl & water.

Procedure(i) Detection of Yellow Chalk Powder

Take about 0.5 g of turmeric powder in a test tube and add 1mL of dilute HCl. Evolution
of effervescence shows the presence of coloured chalk powder in turmeric.
2 HCl + CaCO3 --> CaCl2 + H2O + CO2
(ii) Detection of Sawdust Coloured with Coaltar Dye
Take about 1.0 g turmeric powder in a test tube add a few drops of conc. HCl. Instant
appearance of violet colour which persists on dilution with distilled water indicates the
presence of sawdust coloured with metanil yellow, a coaltar dye.

Experiment- 7


adulterants in the given sample of pepper.

Aim- To test the presence of

TheoryThe common adulterant in pepper is dried papaya seed.

Materials RequiredBeaker, water.


(i) Detection of Pappaya Seeds in Black Pepper

Take a beaker filled with distilled water and add one spoon full of
pepper. Papaya seeds float over water while pepper settles down.


Selection of wholesome and no adulterated food is essential for daily life to make sure that
such foods do not cause any health hazard. It is not possible to ensure wholesome food only
on visual examination when the toxic contaminants are present in ppm level. However,
visual examination of the food before purchase makes sure to ensure absence of insects,
visual fungus, foreign matters, etc. Therefore, due care taken by the consumer at the time of
purchase of food after thoroughly examining can be of great help. Secondly, label
declaration on packed food is very important for knowing the ingredients and nutritional
value. It also helps in checking the freshness of the food and the period of best before use.
The consumer should avoid taking food from an unhygienic place and food being prepared
under unhygienic conditions. Such types of food may cause various diseases.
Consumption of cut fruits being sold in unhygienic conditions should be avoided. It is
always better to buy certified food from reputed shop.