From added colour in fruits and vegetables to lead chromate in turmeric, adulteration has become a challenge for consumers and authorities alike. After a recent raid by the Food Safety department officials at a godown where adulterated tea powder was being stocked, besides many other instances of the officials cracking down on milk and spice adulteration, doctors are stressing on the need for the public to be careful on what they consume.
“There are edible adulterants that are seen in food like peeper seeds, wherein papaya seeds are added. However, on the other hand, there are inedible adulterants that are added – like the colours that are used to make fruits and vegetables look fresh – that can prove to be very harmful,” said Dr Dharini Krishnan, a renowned nutritionist, citing the example of Food Safety officials seizing mangoes that were ripened artificially using calcium carbide. This adulterant can cause problems such as neurological disorders, ulcers, hypoxia and memory loss, pointed out Dr S Gopinath, a physician said, adding that it was important to shun artificially ripened fruits to avoid long term health problems.
Adulteration is an issue with dry products, too, like in the case of spices. “Lead chromate and starch are often added to turmeric, which is not safe at all. They are not edible and can create health issues like complications in the liver. There are instances wherein one will find a particular adulterant to masoor dal, which can cause kala azar or Visceral leishmaniasis, which is the second largest parasitic killer in the world,” added Dr Krishnan.
It is not just the adulterants that can have an impact on people’s health. The green vegetables, which are grown in the city’s outskirts where there are high levels of industrial pollutants, can absorb the pollutants and can have long term effects on an individual’s internal organs.
Stressing on the fact that the chemicals present in adulterants can affect the kidneys, Dr Georgi Abraham, senior nephrologist at the Madras Medical Mission, said, “The chemicals tend to affect the blood, which in turn can produce a change wherever it goes. Flowing through the kidney, it creates a change in that organ, too.”