The pandemic of food adulteration.

Adulteration means reducing the quality standards of a particular product by means of adding impurities or substitutes to it. In this article, we will discuss the adulteration in the food sector.

Adulteration in food is an important issue worldwide. Many countries have developed technologies to check the authenticity of food products and implemented strict laws to reduce these activities.

WHAT CAUSES ADULTERATION?

In this modern way of living, we people are so busy with our jobs and all other stuff which is why we don’t bother about what’s going on behind the food that we buy from outside, the junk foods, the food products that we use in households like spices, oils, etc. But now there’s a shift in that mindset because there’s an increase in the number of health issues worldwide, even in our family we can observe it nowadays. Day by day cancer patients are increasing in numbers.

There might be other reasons that contribute to dangerous health issues like cancer, but don’t you think the very basic thing, which is, the food we eat itself is the cause of such illness? Yes, as we ignore all the news about adulteration in food going around us, we are also unknowingly consuming the same thing in our everyday life.

Our ignorance in these matters is compelling many other manufacturers, brands, & retailers to think of making a profit out of it. This is the Intentional way of food adulteration. Many brands do this, but we never notice it until it’s seen somewhere in the news or someone we know is affected by it. This is because the standards set by the government are easy to crack (because they’re old) and these business people are way ahead of the government regulations. For intentionally adulterating the products a lot of chemicals are used in it, which is why in the long run, consumption of these types of foods causes health issues. But there are also genuine products that somehow get adulterated because of factors like temperature, presence of organic compounds, some bacterias etc., these are not added to it intentionally. This is the Unintentional or Natural adulteration, still, it is bad for health. Natural adulteration occurs because of lack of knowledge in food processing, lack of observation, ignorance etc.

HEALTH ISSUES CAUSED BY ADULTERATION

There’s a long list of health issues caused by adulterated food. It is because the major contents used to adulterate food products are chemicals. These chemicals have harmful direct effects on our body. Not just in our body, think of pregnant women consuming these foods, they are passing over all these unwanted chemicals and their effects to their next generation. From the studies based on children’s behaviour, it was found that mothers who had consumed a lot of junk foods during their pregnancy, got kids who exhibited aggressive behaviour patterns.

Mineral oil added to edible oil can cause cancer, Lead Chromate, an inorganic compound that has vivid yellow colour is added to spices and turmeric powder to enhance their colour, it causes anaemia, paralysis, brain damage and even abortions. Lead Oxide is another colour enhancing agent added in spices and has the same effects as Lead Chromate. Mercury contaminated fish (fishes that live in waters near factories) can cause brain damage and paralysis. Hyperactivity, infertility, anaemia, allergies, liver damage, cancer and even birth defects can be caused by even consuming foods that contain permitted colouring agents in it beyond the safe limits.

SURVEYS CONDUCTED IN INDIA ABOUT FOOD SAFETY

Recent reports by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) shows that only 3 out of 13 honey brands passed the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) test. Those 3 brands are — Saffola, Markfed Sohna, and Nature’s Nectar. NMR test is used to determine the content and purity of the product sample. Famous brands like Dabur, Patanjali, Hitkari, Zandu, Apis, and Baidyanath failed to get through NMR test, which is the most advanced test among other tests, and it is claimed that they were adulterating their honey using modified sugar (synthetic sugar). This synthetic sugar is designed well so that the normal tests set by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) can’t detect it and NMR test is not mandatory for marketing these products in Indian markets. CSE also found that the source of this synthetic sugar is from China, but it is also manufactured locally in the name of ‘all pass honey’ in India. Similar sugar syrups are available in famous online portals like Alibaba as ‘Fructose syrups’ that can bypass regulatory tests.

In the 2018–19 survey, it was found that out of 106,459 samples of food collected, 15.8% of them were substandard, 3.7% were unsafe and 9% were mislabeled. It was during these years the data were collected separately under the labels — substandard, unsafe and mislabeled.

Food safety in many states is not ensured even today because of the scarcity of staff and lack of resources like labs for food testing. In a research conducted in Uttar Pradesh, a well-established company which distributed edible oil to various states in the country, it was found 70 % of their mustard oil is adulterated. A gang was arrested for manufacturing fake cumin seeds using grass paste and sand particles, about more than 450 bags were found.

SOME REGULATIONS MADE BY INDIAN GOVT.:

· Consumer Protection Bill 2019: This bill included a product liability clause in it which gave the consumers certain benefits like compensation from manufacturers for the injury or damage caused by their goods or services.

· Regulation of Alcoholic Beverages April 2019: This bill ensured that every bottle had statutory warning printed on it.

· Vision 2015: It rationalized the taxation on food products making it affordable for everyone. Also, safety and standards of food production were raised, financial benefits were provided for farms and food processing units.

SOME PHYSICAL FEATURES TO ENSURE GENUINITY:

There are a few physical features on the products nowadays that help us to ensure their genuinity. They are — tamper-evident holograms, holographic shrink sleeves, hidden text printed using magnetic ink etc. This helps the manufacturers to reduce the manufacturing of duplicate products of their brand.

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES:

A number of digital technologies have already emerged to ensure the genuinity of the product other than the physical features. A unique serial number is printed on the product’s packaging, known as URN number. This number has the details of the manufacturer, country of origin of the product etc.

BLOCKCHAIN BASED TRACEABILITY:

In India, Punjab Agro Export Corporation deployed blockchain technology in potato fields. In this technology, the quality of seed potato is certified and traced from its nucleus to seed level development stages. The quality of the seed is also checked and geo-tagged before sowing. This technology gave the customer access to full data regarding the production cycle of the purchased product and is adopted in many countries like the US, China, Japan, Russia etc.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS BY BLOCKCHAIN TRACEABILITY:

In China, Danone launches “Track & connect”, its new traceability service for infant formula products. In this service, they provide two QR codes printed inside and outside of the packaging. These codes aim to introduce customized after-sale support and services such as health and nutrition apps, useful information and videos regarding parenting, and other customer services. This technology also helps the company to recognize consumer demands and preferences.

CONCLUSION:

Development of a country not only depends on its infrastructural development and educational systems, but it also depends on the health of the citizens. Adulterated food consumption will affect the future generation’s health also if it’s not taken into account. Therefore it is important to make sure that everyone gets safe and healthy food. It must be ensured by the government using strict laws and by making use of modern digital technologies like Blockchain traceability, revised standards and tests, which will help both the consumers and manufacturers.

Creating transparency marketing systems in packaged food products to make people aware what they eat!