The sheer imagination of the nefarious minds has enabled penetration of unhealthy substances in the daily consumables. On Tuesday, five men were arrested for supposedly producing and selling “fake cumin seeds” or jeera that were made using grass bits and stone powder. These bits were cut into tiny pieces and coloured with green or any suitable paints to give it a more realistic look. In a few cases, even the poor quality seed was painted with synthetic paint, and made to re-enter the market at a higher price for its purported “quality”. A worrying fact is that a similar incident was recorded in 2015 when a team of Hyderabad police busted a gang adulterating cumin seeds.
The food industry in India is beset with the menace of adulteration. Not only we fare poorly in the Global Hunger Index, but we have also been living an under-nutritious life. Attributed to the surge in demand and coupled with the pervasiveness of common adulterants, it has become a difficult task of putting your hands on what can be termed as pure, unadulterated food.
In the annual public laboratory testing reports for the year 2017–18, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) showed that close to 25% of the samples analysed were found to be adulterated. The states with the highest level of adulteration, according to the 2017-18 report were Mizoram (61.9%), Rajasthan(45%), Uttar Pradesh (43.9%), followed by Jharkhand (37.7%).
Other than jeera, other items vulnerable to adulteration are milk, tea and coffee, sweets, honey and vegetables. We are aware of milk being contaminated with chalk, urea, caustic soda, etc. Owing to this, a plethora of milk-delivery startups have mushroomed to provide a relatively pure form of milk. Further, Indian festivals are known for the distribution of sweets. Silver films till now remain a primary constituent of the sweets.
According to Indian regulations, silver must be 99.9% pure if used as a food ingredient. However, due to silver’s rising prices, shopkeepers have started using silver vark that often contains aluminium which is again harmful, if consumed. Such adulteration becomes responsible for neurotoxicity in an individual. This occurs with the exposure to artificial toxic substances that alter the regular activity of the nervous system. Even the poor man’s protein or legumes haven’t been spared from such contamination with incidents of Metanil Yellow adulteration which is a toxic substance.
The FSSAI should take notice lest the contamination pervades through the society in a more comprehensive form. Acting in sheer pique cannot be the ideal response to limit this crisis. Food remains an essential aspect of a human’s life, and its denial in pure form only undermines our Fundamental Right to Life. The authorities must increase their effectiveness and agility. Population explosion or having a small number of inspectors to limit food adulteration cannot be given as an excuse to a problem that can snowball into a man-made disaster in the future.