What is Intentional Adulteration, its Types & How to Detect?

Table of Content


What is Intentional Adulteration?

What are the Main Causes of Intentional Adulteration?

Types of Common Adulteration of Food

An attempt is made to identify, prevent and discourage these deceptive activities through coordination among all industries, strict regulatory regulations and continuous monitoring.

Discover common ways of intentional mixing and tell those participating in the food trade how to avoid the same, enhance their management systems, and protect buyers.

Food Products

Adulterants Side Effects on the Human Body
Cheese, ghee and butter Vegetable oils, animal fats, mineral fats, mashed potatoes, and starch Gastrointestinal disturbances and other stomach disorders.
Coffee powder Chicory, caramel and date seeds Diarrhoea, stomach disorders, giddiness, and joint pain.
Honey Acid-inverted sugar syrups, corn syrups, and syrups of natural origin such as maple, cane sugar, beet sugar, and molasses Diabetes, abdominal weight gain, and obesity raise the level of blood lipids and can cause high blood pressure.
Jaggery Rock salt or gypsum Vomiting and diarrhoea.
Turmeric powder Pesticide residues, sawdust, chalk dust, industrial dyes, metallic yellow dye, arsenic, lead, metal, etc. Food poisoning, stomach cramps, indigestion, and nausea.
Pepper Papaya seeds and mineral oil coating Headache, muscular pain, gastrointestinal disorders, drowsiness.
Tea Azo dyes such as sunset yellow, tartrazine, carmoisine, brilliant blue, and indigo carmine Organ damage, cancer, or respiratory issues.
Edible oils Rancid oils, margarine, super soybean oil, cottonseed, argemone oil, papaya seeds, palm oil, castor and mineral oil Gallbladder cancer, cardiac arrest, allergies, paralysis, and high LDL cholesterol.
Cinnamon sticks Cinnamon cassia Liver damage, mouth sores, low blood sugar, and breathing problems.
Cumin seeds Grass seeds covered with charcoal dust, peanut shells and the shells or husks of several tree nuts such as almond, pecan and walnut Cancer, kidney stones or urinary tract diseases.
Grains Dust, pebbles, stones, straw, weed seeds, damaged grain, etc. Liver disorders and toxicity in the body.
Mustard seeds Argemone seeds Abdominal contractions, sluggishness and increased excretion.
Milk and curd Urea, formalin, detergents, ammonium sulphate, boric acid, caustic soda, benzoic acid, salicylic acid, hydrogen peroxide, sugars and melamine Food poisoning, gastrointestinal complications, impairments, heart problems, cancer or even death.
Sugar Plastic crystals, urea, washing soda, chalk powder, sugar substitutes, and other sugar products Diabetes, abdominal weight gain, and obesity raise the level of blood lipids and can cause high blood pressure.

The multidimensional threat intentional adulteration poses to food safety and consumer confidence requires us to take more robust measures to prevent it. This can be done through stringent monitoring mechanisms, enhanced traceability methods, and transparency promotion along all stages of production.

Why is Food Adulterated?

Major Factors Behind Adulteration of Food

How to Detect Adulteration in Food?

Detecting adulteration in food is essential for food safety and quality. Adulteration adds substandard, harmful, or relatively cheaper ingredients to food products to reap economic benefits. This can lead to nutrient loss, pose health hazards, and mislead consumers. 

The following is an essential guide on how to identify food adulteration:

Food Products

Ways to Detect
Cheese, ghee and butter

Cheese: The sophisticated analytical method known as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is frequently used to detect adulterants in food products, such as cheese and milk.

Ghee: If ghee is pure, a small amount of iodine solution applied to it should turn blue-black; if it is tainted, it will turn brown or yellow.

Butter: It is simple to determine whether mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are present in a butter sample by adding a few drops of iodine, which is brownish and becomes blue when added.

Coffee powder Take a transparent glass of water and add a teaspoon of coffee powder. The coffee powder floats over the water, but the chicory begins to sink.
Honey Add a teaspoon of honey to a glass of warm water and mix. If it sinks to the bottom without dissolving, it's probably pure honey. If it seems hazy or melts, it might be tampered with.
Jaggery Grab a clear water glass and fill it with 10 grams of the sample. If chalk and jaggery are combined, the adulterant will sink to the bottom of the glass.
Turmeric powder Add a teaspoon of water to the powdered Haldi. It's real if it settles to the bottom and becomes a light yellow. However, when mixed with water, tampered Haldi powder turns a dark yellow.
Pepper Garnish a glass of water with a small pinch of black pepper. Black pepper puree sinks to the bottom. The papaya seeds float on the water's surface in the tainted black pepper.
Tea Spread a few tea leaves on a filter paper. Wet the filter paper by sprinkling it with water. Examine the stains against a light source after washing the filter paper with tap water. The filter paper won't get stained by pure tea leaves.
Edible Oils Warm a tiny amount of oil in a pan over low to medium heat. Pure oils shouldn't create a lot of smoke or foam when heated because they typically have a high smoke point. Excessive foaming or smoke may be a sign of pollutants or contaminants.
Cinnamon sticks If cinnamon powder is adulterated with cassia, a drop of iodine turns it blue, whereas real cinnamon remains intact.
Cumin seeds Pour a glass of water with a teaspoon of cumin added, and let it sit for a while. The pure spice will sink to the bottom, and the adulterants will float. Put some cumin seeds in your palms and give them a good rub. Your palms turning black is a sign of adultery.
Grains Grab a clear glass of water. Incorporate two tsp of food grains and fully blend. Pure grain will not leave any colour. When food grains are tampered with, water instantly becomes discoloured.
Mustard seeds Transfer a tiny amount of mustard seeds onto a glass plate. Look for the argemone seeds with your eyes. When crushed, the smooth, yellow interior of mustard seeds is revealed. Argemone seeds are black and have a rough, granular surface.
Milk and curd A drop of milk placed on a polished, slanting surface will reveal the presence of water. A drop of pure milk flows slowly and leaves a white trail; a drop of milk laced with water runs instantly and leaves no trace.
Sugar Grab a clear glass of water. Dissolve 10g of the sample in the water. The adulterant will sink to the bottom when sugar, jaggery, or pithy sugar is combined with chalk.

How to Check Intentional Adulteration at Home?

Risk of Consumption

Harmful Effects of Intentional Adulteration

What are the Diseases Caused by Intentional Adulteration?

Intentional food adulteration can result in several illnesses and health issues depending on the kind of adulterants added and the level of contamination. The following illnesses are frequently linked to deliberate food adulteration:


Salmonellosis Salmonella bacteria, which can be present in tainted food and water, can cause a bacterial infection known as salmonellosis. Salmonella can enter the food chain by deliberate adulteration, such as adding tainted water to dilute food products.
Lead Poisoning Lead poisoning happens when lead builds up in the body, usually due to consuming tainted food or water. Lead exposure and poisoning can result from purposeful adulteration with lead compounds, such as colouring agents based on lead or contaminated components.
Melamine Poisoning When food products are contaminated with melamine, a nitrogen-rich chemical, melamine toxicity results; the goal is usually to raise the protein content artificially. When consumed, melamine can harm the kidneys and result in various health issues.
Botulism Due to the bacteria clostridium botulinum's ability to create strong neurotoxins, botulism is an uncommon but dangerous disease. Toxin generation and the growth of clostridium botulinum can result from intentional adulteration, such as the addition of tainted substances or faulty food preservation.
Aflatoxin Poisoning Certain moulds (Aspergillus species) that develop on crops like peanuts, maise and tree nuts create aflatoxins, which are poisonous substances. Food products can become contaminated with aflatoxin through deliberate adulteration using tainted ingredients or improper storage.
Mercury Poisoning When the body accumulates mercury, a poisonous heavy metal, it can cause mercury poisoning. Mercury exposure and poisoning can result from deliberate adulteration with mercury compounds or from methylmercury contamination of seafood.
Diethylene Glycol Poisoning Diethylene glycol (DEG) is a hazardous material utilised in industrial products like antifreeze. DEG poisoning may result from deliberate adulteration with DEG or its contamination of food and medication goods.

To protect consumers from harm, these disorders draw attention to various health hazards connected to deliberate food adulteration. They also emphasise the significance of regulatory enforcement, public health initiatives, and preventive actions.

Food products can be intentionally tainted with dangerous compounds or subpar components to profit financially. This practice can cause serious health hazards, including foodborne illnesses, poisoning, allergic responses, chronic illnesses, and even death. Common adulterants include cheaper alternatives, impurities like pesticides or heavy metals, and hidden allergies.

To protect the safety and authenticity of the food supply, government organisations, food producers, suppliers, merchants, and consumers must work together to resist intentional adulteration.

FAQs about Intentional Adulteration