September 15, 2010

so much adulteration, what to eat?

Of late, we hear reports of all types on food adulteration of new types. In olden days, the doodhwalla [milkman] used to put a lot of tap water to make some quick bucks. Local lala [shopkeeper] would mix small pebbles in food grains and/ or sell old and poor quality goods as good quality and fresh stuff. Admixtures such as papaya seeds in black pepper were common, but they were safe. Then came the age of mixing khesri dal in pigeon pea, non-food grade colours in sweets, sawdust, chalk powder and even dried horse shit in spices. Ripening of fruits such as banana with ethylene was done in the open, partly due to ignorance about its harmful effects.

Now we are in an age where technology rules, so you could not expect food adulteration to lag behind. A great deal of adulteration now being done is still old jugaad type [cobbled together] but with total disregard for human health or sentiments and in a very organised way. It is so widespread that sometimes you don’t have a choice but to accept it a way of life as in the case of vegetables and dairy products.

Some recent reports of such widespread food adulteration / manipulation are eye opener.
It is reported that in many areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, artificial milk, cheese and ghee are sold more than the natural ones. For making artificial milk, they mix fat, urea caustic soda, detergents and formalyn - most of them very much harmful to humans. For making ghee, they boil bones of dead animals and mix chemicals and scent to give it texture and aroma of pure ghee. Rackets of adulterated milk products thrive because of high consumption, extremely lax and corrupt checking system and very high margin. Thousands of fake packats, pouches and tins of reputed companies have recently been seized from Uttar Pradesh.

Use of oxytocin, a plant hormone, for quick growth of gourds is reported to be very common. When the gourd is small, it is injected with oxytocin. Instead of the usual three weeks, the gourd then takes only a week to turn as big as a normal gourd.

If you add the blatant disregard for food standards even by reputed companies, and minor [but very harmful] use of chemicals for washing vegetables, shining pulses and coloring foodstuff, you find hardly anything worth eating without ingesting a large amount of harmful chemicals. Only today, papers have reported a CSE study that found that all reputed brands of honey have unacceptable levels of antibiotics in domestic packs while the honey exported by the same companies have lower levels of anitibiotics. In an earlier analysis, the water quality of major bottled water and cola brands was found to be poor.

Take care, the learned and resourceful people! [Let others go to hell.]

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