New Delhi: Beware before giving a bite to your food in the national capital!  You hail them as a healthy item but reality is stark different, because they are loaded with different adulterants which could prove fatal for your health.

The manufacturers and traders mix ingredients with the sole aim to earn higher profits. Perhaps, there is hardly any food item in the market, which is free from adulteration. The adulterants are said to be harmful to health and in many cases it could prove even fatal.

To make matter worse, the monitoring system of the government is not effective to check the malpractices, as there is no provision of a direct and quick inquiry against the defaulters.

Sample this, acting on a tip off, the district food and supply controller along with SDM and police conduct raid collecting food samples which are sent for lab test that may take over 20 days. In such situations, the defaulters either get bail or are released after paying a fine.

While food inspectors express their helplessness in curbing the malpractices, the health experts have cautioned against the continuous consumption of adulterated food.

According to the lecturer of medicine department of GTB hospital, Dr Amitesh Agarwal, the harmful effect of the adulteration depends on the quantity of the adulterant in food.

“Usually argemone oil is adulterated with mustard oil. The consumption of oil mixed with argemone has a risk of cardiac failure and even death,” he said.

Similarly, the turmeric is adulterated with yellow-coloured lead chromate, consumption of which may cause blood deficiency and weakness of nerves, said experts.

The flour is adulterated with white sand and so its continuous intake has a higher risk of stomach related problems.

What does law say?

The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA), 1954 aims at making provisions for preventing adulteration of food. Under the Act, those found guilty can be sentenced to three years to life imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 5000, depending on the nature of crime.

Where to complain?

Any individual can register complaint against those involved in adulteration with any of the following officials: district deputy commissioner, SDM, District food and supply controller, food adulteration department and the police as well.

What do officials say?

According to K S Singh, Commissioner, Prevention of Food Adulteration Department, in order to check adulteration, food samples are collected and sent for test in labs. If result of the test is positive, the department registers a case against the concerned person under PFA. The minimum punishment for the crime is 6 months in jail.

Adulterants in Food Items

Ghee:Desi ghee is adulterated with vegetable ghee. At times animal fat is also mixed in the ghee.

Spices:Spices are adulterated with seeds and powder of dried leaves. Black pepper is adulterated with grinded dried Papaya Seeds. For red chili powder, finely crushed brick powder and red colour is mixed in it. Turmeric is adulterated with Yellow mud, 'Besan' and grinded rice powder.

Tea: Tea leaves are mixed with powder of gram.

Butter: Adulterated with vegetable ghee

Khoya:  Adulterated by using starch, blotting paper.

Sugar: Adulterated with powder of white chalk which is tasteless and less soluble.

Honey: Adulterated with mixture of water and sugar.

Testing is the solution!

Butter: Add a solution of iodine into butter. If the butter is adulterated, it would turn blue, indicating the presence of starch in it.

Khoya: Boil a khoya sample in water and add an iodine tincture to the water. Blue colour of water would indicate the presence of starch in it.

Sugar: Make a solution of sugar in water. The sugar would get dissolved while the chalk would remain suspended in water.

Silver Foil: On being heated, silver foil burns down to small ball where as aluminum foil turns black.

Milk: Boil the Milk and if it smells or a toxic layer is formed at the bottom of the utensil, milk is likely to be adulterated.

Honey:  Dip cotton in honey and try to burn it. If the piece of cotton burns, honey is unadulterated.