How safe is our food?

Y Merina Chishi 
Dimapur| December 28

The next time you sip your morning tea, think if the tea leaves you purchased from the friendly shopkeeper’s shop is “pure.” And the next time your milkman admits he mixes a “little water;” make sure it is not starch! Food adulteration has become a rampant phenomenon. While all efforts are exerted to curb this illegal and unethical practice which has caused millions of deaths across the world, there are little chances of detecting adulteration. Polish, chromium, chemical dyes, saw dusts and even your car engine lubricant is all going down your stomach.  

An official from the department of Science and Technology (S&T), New Delhi taking part in the 16th Indian Children Science Congress (ICSC) explained how tea leaves and other spices are adulterated. He said pure tea leaves will never give out color if poured into cold water. “Pure tea leaves give out color when poured in hot water,” he explained. Used tea leaves dried and mixed with chromium and packed new has also been detected by the department over the years. A common occurrence is the use of chemical dyes in vegetables, which cause various forms of cancer. Shining vegetables and fruits are not recommended by the S&T expert and he advised that you wash your ‘dal’ (pulse) absolutely clean before cooking.

Even a minute spice like black pepper is said to contain papaya seeds in most adulterated cases which can cause diarrhea, while cinnamon is mixed with guava tree barks. Adulteration in edible oil is one of the most rampant business crimes where castor oil or even “mobil” (lubricant) is mixed, which can cause cancer and liver disorders. 

Trademarks and ISI marked goods don’t seem to be a guarantee for purity as well. Fake trademark rackets have been busted in many parts of the country, thus leaving consumers at risk. The departments of S&T on platforms like the ICSC try to create awareness on food adulteration. But the department’s official says that unless consumers exert an extra effort to detect adulteration, it is practically impossible for detecting agencies to curb adulteration single-handedly.