Adulteration of Ground Spices

December 14, 2021 By user 0


Spices are an important commodity in every Indian kitchen and no meal is complete without them. We probably buy a variety of ground spices every month and when packaged spices of our choice are not available, we end up buying loose spices. This increases our risk of consuming adulterated spices.

Spices are consumed in various forms such as whole spices, ground spices, oleoresins, extracts etc. Spices play an important role in enhancing the flavour and taste of processed foods. They are also used in medicine because of their carminative stimulating and difestive properties.

Ground spices maybe adulterated with artificial colours, starch, chalk powder, etc. to increase their weight and enhance appearance. High value ground spices are frequently adulterated for economic gains. Adulteration is difficult to identify by visual and sensory inputs alone.

Consumption of adulterated spices can cause various diseases like skin allergies, liver disorder etc. Due to high probability of adulteration in ground spices, FSSAI has banned the sale of ground spices in loose form.

Key Take Aways

As customers, we should keep in mind the following points:

  • Avoid buying powdered spices sold loose.
  • Buy spices in packaged condition from trusted brands only. Prefer purchasing AGMARK certified ground spices and look for AGMARK logo.
  • Check the FSSAI licence number on the package label.
  • Purchase whole spices from known/reputed sotres / dealers and grind it at home after proper cleaning and washing. Chances of adulteration in whole spices are generally low as compared to ground spices as it can be visually identified.
  • Do not buy spices with extra shine and bright colours as they are more likely to be adulterated.
  • Never purchase ground spices having lump formation or unpleasant odour.
  • Always read the manufacturing date, manufacturer details, best before date and other labelling declarations before buying spices.
  • Never buy ground spices if the package is damaged.
  • Look for FSSAI organic logo (Jaivik Bharat) on the pack while buying organic spices.

Why ground spices are adulterated?

Spices are high in value, and are often sold in ground or powdered form, making them a prime target for adulteration. Groung spices are often substituted with fillers, less expensive/low quality spices, flour, corn starch, sawdust etc. Sometimes toxic and potentially carcinogenic dyes are also added to older stocks to enhance their appearance and hide the presence of fillers. For example, metanil yellow colour and lead chromate used in turmeric; sudan 1, a red dye, in chilli powder which is a category 3 carcinogen.

Effects of adulterated spices on our health

Adulteration is primarily intended for economic gains. However, it may lead to serious health risks for the public. Consumption of adultelrated spices for prolonged periods may result in stomach disorders, cancer, vomiting, diarrhoea, ulcers, liver disorders, skin disorders, neurotoxicity, etc.

Common adulteration in ground spices

01Black Pepper PowderAddition of papaya seeds, starch and sawdust
02Turmeric powderAddition of lead chromate, mentanil yellow, chalk powder or yellow soap stone powder and starch: substitution with other rhizomes e.g. arrrow root etc.
03Chillies powderAddition of brick powder, salt powder or talc powder, artificial colours and dyes, colour, grit, sand, dirt, filth, saw dust, dried tomato skin
04Asafoetida (Hing)Addition of soap stone or other earthy material, starch, foreign resin
05Coriander powderAddition of animal dung powder, seed removed coriander
06OreganoAddition of other similar hebs and plant leaves
07Curry PowderAddition of starch powder and sawdust
08CinnamonSubstitution with Cassia
09CuminAddition of grass seeds coloured with chorcoal, immature fennel
10SaffronAddition of coloured dried tendrils of maize cob, Sandalwood dust, Tartrazine, Coconut threads
11CardamomSubstitution with de-oiled cardamom, artificial colourant (e.g.’applegreen’, malachite green).

How to detect adulteration in ground spices at home

Adulteration in ground spices can be checked at home by using simple test methods listed in Detect Adulteration with Rapid Test (DART) booklet prepared by FSSAI. This booklet is a compilation of common quick tests for detection of food adulterants at household level by citizens themselves. It can be downloaded free from the FSSAI Website

Source: FSSAI

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