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Adulteration of food with toxic chemicals harmful to health has reached an epidemic proportion in Bangladesh. The newspapers have dubbed it as the ‘silent killer’. It is very difficult to find a sector of food industry which is free of adulteration. From raw vegetable and fruits to milk and milk products to fish, meat and processed food–every food item is contaminated. Almost every day in the news papers, newer and newer methods of adulterating newer and newer types of foods are reported.
Carbide, formalin, textile colours, artificial sweeteners, DDT, urea etc. are used rampantly for this purpose.
Contamination of foods with toxic chemicals pose a serious threat to public health, especially in a country like Bangladesh where due to poor health literacy, level of awareness is very low. Immediate effect of ingestion of such foods may be severe forms of diarrhoea (food poisoning), threatening life. In the long run, these chemicals in food adversely affect vital organs such as the liver and kidney resulting in organ failure and/or cancer and thus, untimely loss of life.
There is no database in the country for these, but the recent surge in liver and kidney failure patients in the hospitals is indicative of the deteriorating situation.
Ironically, people from all walks of life is aware of the hazards of taking foods adulterated with toxic chemicals, but this knowledge is not translated into practice. In a recent study, it has been found that though people are aware about the health hazards, they are nevertheless buying and consuming these adulterated foods.
Several explanations are made for this paradox; absence or unavailability of non-adulterated food, failure of the regulatory agency to test and screen out adulterated food, adulterated foods are attractive in appearance and costs less, cultural factors and food habits etc.
There is no paucity of laws and regulations to contain adulteration of food in Bangladesh such as Bangladesh Standard Testing Institute (BSTI) Ordinance of 1985, and the Pure Food Ordinance of 2005. Under the purview of these rules come the following offences: fake licenses, poor quality of food, substandard infrastructure and lack of maintaining hygiene, food adulteration, food impurity, incorrect information on food packages, selling products whose date have expired etc. However, the problem lies in its sustained and appropriate implementation by credible authority.
Occasionally, the regulatory authorities will be suddenly in an active mode, and conduct mobile courts to penalize sellers/producers for selling contaminated products/foods. Then, there will be a lull for a few days and after few weeks, business becomes as usual. So what is to be done? First and foremost, commitment from the political establishment to wage a sustained campaign against these perpetrators of heinous crime, and establish our fundamental right to have safe and nutritious food!
For this to achieve, relentless enforcement of existing laws with the execution of highest penalty possible, awareness-building campaign among consumers, promotion of ethical practices among the business community with active involvement of the business leaders, and capacity development of public health labs to test food items for adulteration on the spot are needed. The consumer rights groups should be more vocal and play active role in developing a mass campaign/movement in the country Safe and unadulterated food is out human right!… Let’s work together to achieve this.
Food adulteration detection Food Tea Leaves Adulterant Iron Flakes Detection Spread a small quantity (2 tea-spoon) of the sample on a piece of paper. Draw a magnet over it. Iron flakes, if present, cling to the magnet. The same test may be carried out to trace iron flakes from tea half-dust and iron filings from tea dust. Food Tea Leaves Adulterant Leather Flakes Detection Prepare a paper-ball. Fire the ball and drop a little amount of the sample on it. The presence of leather flakes emits an odour of burnt leather.
Food Tea Leaves Adulterant Coal Tar Dye Detection Scatter a little amount (1 tea-spoon) of the sample n a moistened white blotting paper. After 5 minutes, remove the sample and examine the paper. A revelation of coloured spots indicates the use of the dye. Food Coriander powder and Cumin Powder Adulterant Saw Dust Detection Take a little amount (a half of tea-spoon) of the sample. Sprinkle it on water in a bowl. Spice powder gets sedimented at the bottom and saw-dust floats on the surface. Food Green vegetables like Bitter Gourd, Green Chilli and others Adulterant Malachite Green Detection Take a small part of the sample and place it on a piece of moistened white blotting paper.
The impression of colour on the paper indicates the use of malachite green, or any other low priced artificial colour. Food Arhar Pulse Adulterant Kesarri Pulse Detection Kesari Pulse has a characteristic wedge shape. Larger Kesari resembles Arhar (Tur). It can be separated by visual examination. Food Black Pepper Adulterant Papaya Seeds Detection Papaya seeds do not have any smell and are relatively smaller in size. Adulteration of papaya seed with Black Pepper may be detected by way of visual examination as also by way of smelling.
Food Rice Adulterant Earth, sand, grit, unhusked paddy, rice bran, talc, etc. Detection These adulterants may be detected visually and removed by way of sorting, picking, and washing. Food Wheat Adulterant Earth, sand, grit, chopped straw, bran, unhusked grain, and seeds of weeds. Detection These adulterants may be detected visually and removed by way of sorting, picking, and washing. CHEMICAL TEST Food Coffee powder Adulterant Cereal starch Detection Take a small quantity (one-fourth of a tea-spoon) of the sample in a test tube and add 3 ml of distilled water in it.
Light a spirit lamp and heat the contents to colourize. Add 33 ml of a solution of potassium permanganate and muratic acid (1:1) to decolourize the mixture. The formation of blue colour in mixture by addition of a drop of 1% aqueous solution of iodine indicated adulteration with starch. Food Coffee powder Adulterant Powder of scorched persimmon stones Detection Take a small quantity (1 tea-spoon) of the sample and spread it on a moistened blotting paper. Pour on it, with much care, 3 ml of 2% aqueous solution of sodium carbonate.
A red colouration indicates the presence of powder of scorched persimmon stones in coffee powder. Food Jaggery Adulterant Sodium bicarbonate Detection Take a little amount (one-fourth of a tea-spoon) of the sample in a test tube. Add 3 ml of muratic acid. The presence of sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate effects effervescence. Food Jaggery Adulterant Metanil yellow colour Detection Take a little amount (one-fourth of a tea-spoon) of the sample in a test tube. Add 3 ml of alcohol and shake the tube vigorously to mix up the contents. Pour 10 drops of hydrochloric acid in it.
A pink colouration indicates the presence of metanil yellow colour in jaggery. Food Asafoetida Adulterant Resin and colour Detection Take a little amount of small parts of the sample in test tube. Add 3 ml of distilled water and shake the tube gently. Pure asafoetida dissolves in water very quickly and produces a milky white colour, but in case of adulteration with a chemical colour the mixture turns to be coloured. The purity of asafoetida may also be examined by taking a little amount of it on the tip of a force and placing the same on the flame of a spirit lamp.
Asafoetida burns quickly, producing bright flame and leaving the impurities behind. Food Gram powder Adulterant Kesari powder Detection Take a little amount (a half of a tea-spoon) of the sample in a test tube with 3 ml of distilled water. Add 3 ml of muratic acid. Immerse the tube in warm water. Check the tube after 15 minutes. A violet colouration indicates the presence of Kesari powder in Gram powder. Food Gram powder Adulterant Metanil yellow colour Detection Take a small quantity (a half of a tea-spoon) of the sample in a test tube. Add 3 ml of alcohol.
Shake the tube to mix up the contents thoroughly. Add 10 drops of hydrochloric acid in it. A pink colouration indicates adulteration of gram powder with metanil yellow. Food Processed food, sweetmeat or syrup Adulterant Rhodamine B colour Detection The presence of this chemical colour in food is very easy to detect as it shines very brightly under sun. A more precise methods of detection is also there. Take a little amount (a half of a tea-spoon) of the sample in a test tube. Add 3 ml of carbon tetrachloride and shake the tube to mix up the contents thoroughly.
The mixture becomes colourless and an addition of a drop of hydrochloric acid brings the colour back when food contains Rhodamine B colour. Food Processed food, sweetmeat or syrup Adulterant Metanil Yellow Detection Take little amount (a half of a tea-spoon) of the sample in a test tube. Add 10 drops of muratic acid or hydrochloric acid in it. The appearance of rosy colour indicates adulteration of food with metanil yellow. Food Parched rice Adulterant Urea Detection Take 30 pieces of parched rice in a test tube. Add 5 ml of distilled water.
Shake the tube to mix up the contents thoroughly. After 5 minutes, filter water contents and add to it a little amount (a half of a tea-spoon) of powder of arhar or soyabean. Wait for another 5 minutes and then dip a red litmus paper in the mixture. Lift the paper after 30 seconds and examine it. A blue colouration indicates the use of urea in parched rice. Food Turmeric powder Adulterant Metanil Yellow colour Detection Take a little amount (one-fourth of a tea-spoon) of the sample in a test tube. Add 3 ml of alcohol. Shake the tube to mix up the contents thoroughly.
Add 10 drops of muratic acid or hydrochloric acid in it. A pink colouration indicates the use of metanil yellow colour in turmeric powder. Food Green vegetable like green chilli etc. Adulterant Malachite Green Detection Rub the outer green surface of a small part of the sample with a liquid paraffin soaked cotton. The sample is adulterated when the white cotton turns green. Food Dry red chilli Adulterant Rhodamine B colour Detection Take a red chilli from the sample and rub the outer surface with a piece of cotton soaked in liquid paraffin. The sample is adulterated if the cotton becomes red.
Food Dry turmeric root Adulterant Metanil yellow colour Detection Take a piece of dry turmeric root and rub the outer surface with a piece of cotton soaked in liquid paraffin. A yellow colouration of cotton indicates adulteration of turmeric root with metanil yellow colour. Food Sweet potato Adulterant Rhodamine B colour Detection Take a small part of the sample and rub the red outer surface with a piece of cotton soaked in liquid paraffin. The cotton adhering colour indicates the use of Rhodamine B colour on outer surface of the sweet potato.
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