Secure Health Insurance

Secure Health Insurance

Who Would You Like To Insure?

Food Adulteration: Reasons, Different Types

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 16/11/2023

Today, we all are busy with loads of commitments to take care of. This is one of the biggest reasons behind the fact that we give very little time to find out whether the food we are consuming every day is healthy and safe or not.

The safety of the food we consume is, hence, a growing concern. Food adulteration is adding impurities or mediocre substances to food products. And quite naturally, it poses a serious threat to our health.

In this blog, we will explore the reasons behind this unethical practice. We will bring to light the different types of food adulteration that have become alarmingly common.

From diluted milk to fake spices that we use every single day in our kitchen, understanding the different ways in which our food is tampered with is crucial in making informed choices about what we eat.

So, let’s get started on the journey where we uncover the secrets behind food adulteration and learn how to protect ourselves from its harmful effects.

Food Adulteration Meaning: An Overview

Food Adulteration is a significant challenge confronting today's society, despite government efforts to maintain food quality standards. It involves incorporating harmful substances into food items, which may have a similar texture and appearance but differ in composition.

This contamination leads the food products to fall short of the established legal standards and diminishes their nutritional value.

In India, quite alarmingly, a wide range of products is susceptible to adulteration. Be it our regular staples like rice, soy and wheat, dairy products like ghee, milk and butter, popular beverages, and even condiments and spices, almost all of them are being adulterated.

This deceiving practice not only compromises the health and well-being of customers but also contests the honesty and integrity of the food sector.

It is, therefore, crucial to understand the different forms of food adulteration to be safe from falling prey to these contaminated products. Also, knowing the reasons behind food adulteration is vital for safeguarding our health and making informed choices about the food we consume.

Some Common Causes of Food Adulteration

Food adulteration is driven by a combination of economic, regulatory, and social factors. Let’s explore some common reasons behind this concerning practice.

Profit Maximisation

One of the primary reasons for food adulteration is the pursuit of higher profits. By adding cheap and inferior substances to food products, unscrupulous traders can increase their volume and sell more at a lower production cost.

For example, watering down milk or using substandard ingredients in spices can significantly boost profits.

Shortage and Demand-Supply Gap

Sometimes, natural calamities, poor harvests, or unforeseen events can lead to shortages of certain food items. To meet the high demand, unscrupulous suppliers resort to adulteration as a quick fix. This helps them maximise their profits and keep up with the market demands.

Enforcement Gaps

When regulatory measures are insufficient and enforcement of food safety standards is lax, it provides fertile ground for adulteration. With the perception of leniency in consequences, unscrupulous actors are emboldened to engage in this deceptive practice.

Consumer Ignorance

Many consumers may lack familiarity with the indicators of food adulteration or struggle to distinguish between genuine and adulterated products. This lack of awareness allows adulterated items to infiltrate the market.

Advancements in Technology

This has ushered in more intricate methods of adulteration, making it increasingly challenging to detect these deceptive practices. Such sophisticated technological advancements offer the deceivers greater opportunities to tamper with food products.

The Globalisation of the Food Industry

It has given rise to intricate and expansive supply chains. This complexity poses significant difficulties in tracking the origin and authenticity of products, thereby creating weak points where adulteration can occur undetected.

Weakened Quality Assessment

In certain cases, there exists a shortfall in the quality assessment process. This shortage allows adulterated products to slip through the system without detection. Contributing factors may include limited resources or a lack of awareness regarding the risks associated with food adulteration.

Most Common Types of Food Adulteration

Food Adulteration comes in four distinct forms:

Intentional Adulteration

This involves adding substances that mimic the appearance of food constituents, thereby increasing its weight and boosting profits. Examples include mixing in pebbles, wood dust, stones, marbles, sand, mud, filth, chalk powder, and contaminated water.

Incidental Adulteration

This occurs due to oversight or neglect during food handling. It encompasses instances like the presence of pesticide residues in grains, larvae growth, or the presence of rodent droppings.

Metallic Adulteration

In this form, metallic elements like lead or mercury find their way into the food. This may happen inadvertently or be done intentionally.

Packaging Hazard

The materials used for packaging can sometimes interfere with the food constituents, leading to potential hazards. This is an often overlooked but significant aspect of food safety.

Different Methods of Food Adulteration

Food adulteration takes several forms, and each one of them poses great risks to our health and overall well-being.

Let's discover some of the most common adulteration methods:

Mixing Harmful Substances

This involves adding chemicals, sand, pebbles, and other hazardous materials into food. These unwanted elements can seriously compromise the safety and quality of what we consume.

Incorporating Decomposed Food

When spoiled or decomposed food is mixed with healthy ones, it masks its true condition. This deceptive practice falls squarely within the realm of food adulteration.

Substituting Quality for Quantity

Sometimes, unscrupulous individuals replace high-quality ingredients with cheaper, lower-quality alternatives. This not only diminishes the nutritional value of the food but can also lead to health issues.

Misleading Information

Products may be sold with false information about their expiration date, manufacturing date, or ingredients. This misinformation can be dangerous for consumers who rely on accurate labelling.

Addition of Toxic Substances

Adulteration also involves introducing harmful substances into food to increase profits and sales. This could include unauthorised colourings, dyes, or dangerous preservatives.


Altering crucial information such as manufacturing dates, expiry dates, or ingredient lists constitutes a form of food adulteration. Such misrepresentations can have serious consequences for consumers.

Artificial Ripening

Using chemicals to speed up the ripening process in fruits and vegetables is another form of food adulteration. For instance, mangoes are sometimes ripened using carbide to meet commercial demand despite the potential health risks.

A Common Food Adulteration List and Their Effects on Our Health

Here's a table that lists some common examples of food adulteration. It has different food items, common adulterants in food, and the potentially harmful effects of adulteration:

Food Item Adulterant Harmful Effect
Milk Water, Urea, Starch Reduced nutritional value, Digestive issues
Sugar Sand, Chalk, Lime Digestive problems, Weakening of bones
Turmeric Powder Lead Chromate, Metanil Liver damage, Skin disorders
Red Chili Powder Brick Powder, Artificial Colorants Digestive problems, Stomach irritation
Black Pepper Papaya Seeds, Millet Flour Digestive problems, Respiratory issues
Ghee Vanaspati, Animal Fat Reduced nutritional value, Heart problems
Honey Sugar Syrup, Glucose Reduced nutritional value, Allergic reactions
Olive Oil Other oils (palm oil), colourants, Reduced health benefits, Digestive issues
Green Leafy Vegetables Pesticides, Insecticides Nervous system disorders, Respiratory issues
Pulses Kesari Dal, Stones Digestive issues, Dental problems
Tea Used Tea Leaves, Artificial Colourants Reduced quality, Digestive issues
Spices (e.g., Cumin) Sawdust, Starch Reduced flavour, Digestive problems
Fruits Calcium Carbide, Ethephon Digestive issues, Respiratory problems
Edible Oil Argemone Oil, Non-edible Oils Liver damage, Digestive problems
Coffee Chicory, Roasted Gram Reduced flavour, Digestive issues
Flour (e.g., Wheat) Chalk Powder, Adulterated Flour Digestive problems, Reduced nutritional value

How Can You Prevent Consuming Adulterated Food?

Food adulteration is a prevalent issue in India that can adversely affect our health. Being informed about the processes and identifying potentially adulterated food items is crucial.

Here are a few ways by which you can avoid adulterated food:

Local and Direct Sourcing: Opt for purchasing essential food items, especially grains, from local markets or directly from farmers near your vicinity.

DIY Spice Grinding: Consider preparing items like red chilli powder at home by grinding dried red chillies on your own. This way, you have better control over the purity of the spice.

Choose Trusted Brands and Organic Products: Prioritise branded and organic products over cheaper alternatives for a healthier lifestyle. Trusted brands often invest in quality assurance.

Be Cautious with Colours: Avoid food items with unnaturally dark colours, as they might indicate artificial additives or adulterants.

Check Seals and Packaging: Always inspect the seals of items like milk, oil, and other liquids to ensure they are intact. This helps verify the authenticity of the product.

Is There a Way to Detect Adulterated Food?

Yes, there are several methods to detect adulterated food. Here are some easy approaches to check for adulteration in some of the most common kitchen essentials:

To Check the Authenticity of Honey

Common Adulterants: Sugar, glucose, and sugar syrup.

Methods to Verify Purity:

To test honey's authenticity, soak a cotton ball in it and ignite it. If it burns readily, the honey is pure; otherwise, it may be adulterated.

In a glass of water, add a tablespoon of honey. If it settles at the bottom without rapidly dissolving, it is likely pure. Conversely, if it dissolves quickly, there may be adulteration.

To Check the Authenticity of Ghee

Common Adulterants: Vegetable oil, starch, and vanaspati.

Methods to Verify Purity:

To assess ghee purity, melt a tablespoon and refrigerate it in a glass jar until solidified. If distinct layers form, the ghee may be impure.

Test for ghee authenticity by adding a pinch of sugar to a teaspoon of melted ghee in a bottle. After vigorous shaking, inspect it after 5 minutes. If the colour turns red, it likely contains vegetable oil.

To Check the Authenticity of Milk

Common Adulterants: Water, urea, starch, detergent, and synthetic milk.

Methods to Verify Purity:

To check for pure milk, place a drop on a surface. If it leaves a white spot behind as it flows, the milk is likely unadulterated. Otherwise, it may contain water.

Combine half a cup of milk with half a cup of water in a bottle and shake vigorously. If you observe foam or lather, this suggests the presence of detergent.

Boil the milk and look for a yellowish lather forming on the surface. If observed, it indicates the presence of synthetic milk.

What to Do If You Consume Adulterated Food and Get Sick?

If you have mistakenly consumed adulterated food and are experiencing symptoms of food poisoning or other health issues, it is crucial to take the right steps for your well-being.

The effects of food adulteration could get really serious if not treated in time. If your symptoms are mild, like an upset stomach or mild diarrhoea, you can usually manage them at home by staying hydrated and resting well.

However, if the symptoms persist and worsen with every passing hour, or if you experience certain severe symptoms like high fever, vomiting, or bloody diarrhoea, you should immediately seek medical attention.

Additionally, as we saw above, certain substances used for adulteration can be toxic post human consumption. Ingestion of such substances may require hospitalisation and prolonged medical care.

In such cases, having a robust health insurance plan in place would help. Such policies can cover the costs of medical consultations, diagnostic tests, medications, and hospitalisation costs. It ensures that you receive proper medical care without the added financial burden.

With Tata AIG, you can compare health insurance online on our website and pick one that best suits your insurance needs and budget.

In case of a foodborne illness caused by adulterated food, your health insurance can serve as a safety net, providing you with the necessary medical support and giving you peace of mind during unexpected health challenges.


In India, food adulteration remains a prevalent issue with potential risks to our health. It's imperative to educate oneself about the processes and be aware of food items susceptible to such malpractices.

By adopting the precautionary measures mentioned here, you can make informed decisions and safeguard yourself and your family’s health from the potential harm of adulterated food.

Also, do not forget to get a medical insurance policy to keep your finances safe in case of any health-related emergencies in the future.


How can I ensure the food I purchase from local markets is safe from adulteration?

Opt for trusted vendors and inspect the food's appearance. Avoid items with unusual colours, textures, or odours. Additionally, consider sourcing directly from local farmers for added assurance.

What are some long-term health risks associated with consuming adulterated food?

Continued consumption of adulterated food can lead to several health issues, including digestive problems, organ damage, and even chronic illnesses. It's, therefore, important to remain vigilant about the quality of the food that you consume.

What are some common signs of food adulteration that I should watch out for?

Look out for unusual colours, textures, or odours in food. Additionally, settling or dissolving patterns in substances like honey or ghee can be indicators of adulteration.

Disclaimer / TnC

Your policy is subjected to terms and conditions & inclusions and exclusions mentioned in your policy wording. Please go through the documents carefully.

Related Articles

Tata AIG Also Offers Insurance for the below products

Health Insurance

Two Wheeler Insurance

Car Insurance

Travel Insurance