Definition of food adulteration

Definition of food adulteration:

Food adulteration  is defined as the process by which the quality or the nature of a food is reduced through, the addition of a foreign substance which is known as adulterants.

How can we know the adulteration of food?

definition of food adulteration


Food is called adulterated if:

  • As per the definition of food adulteration, a substance is added which depreciates the quality of food.
  • Moreover cheaper or inferior substances are
    substituted wholly or in part
  • Any valuable or necessary constituent has
    been wholly or in part abstracted
  • Although, it is an imitation
  • It is colored or otherwise treated, to
    improve its appearance or if it contains any
    added substance injurious to health.

Some common food adulterants and disease caused by them:


Food Adulterants: starch, milk powder and urea

Health Effects:

Cancer or acute renal failure

Turmeric powder, mixed spices, saffron

Food Adulterants: Metanil yellow, a non-permitted color is
a common adulterant in food items like spices
and turmeric.

Health Effects:

tumor and cancer


Food Adulterants: Ghee essence is uses as vanaspati or
cheaper oils and pass as pure ghee.

Similarly, this type of ghee will not solidify like normal ghee. It may also not have that grainy texture of pure ghee

Health Effects:

Cancer or acute renal failure

Sugar and Salt

Food Adulterants: With chalk powder and white

Health Effects:

Stomach disorder.

Tea powder

Food Adulterants: Dye or artificial color, iron fillings with used tea leaves.

Health Effects:

Cancer, tetanus

Chili powder

Food Adulterants: Sudan red, red
brick powder, grit, sand, dirt, non-permitted
colors and saw dust.

Health Effects:

Stomach disorder,
Sudan dye is carcinogenic.


Food Adulterants : Metanil yellow

Health Effects:

Tumor and cancer


Food Adulterants: Sugar, corn syrup

Health Effects:

Obesity, Diabetes , Eyes and
nerve damages

What are the causes of food adulteration?

As per the definition of food adulteration, the causes of food adulteration are as follows:

  • Profit motive of traders/businessman
  • Food insecurity
  • Increased urbanization
  • Environmental degradation
  • High population growth
  • Illiteracy of general public


Different types of  food adulteration /adulterants:

  • Intentional :

Intentional adulterants are those substances that are added as a deliberate act on the part of the adulterer with the intention to increase the margin of profit.

Eg. sand, marble chips, stones, mud, chalk powder, water, dyes, etc., These adulterants cause harmful effects on the body.

  • Incidental:

Adulterants are found in food substances due to ignorance, negligence or lack of proper facilities.

It is not a willful act on the part of the adulterer.

  • Metallic Adulterants :

If metallic components are added intentionally or incidentally.

Arsenic from pesticides,lead from water ,mercury from effluent,from chemical industries ,tins from can etc

  • Packaging hazards:

The conventional methods of packing which are prevalent even now to a large extent are tin or aluminium containers, glass bottles and jars, paper and waxed paper wrappings, paper cartons, cardboard and certain plastic containers.

Tin and aluminium containers have become costly and glass bottles though very good in many respects have problems associated with breakage and heavy transportation charges on account of weight.



  • Food adulteration is a part of business strategy in which sellers want profit.
  • It is done to make maximum profit from the food item by less invest in it.
  • Food is adulterated during production or selling. Sometimes increase in the demand of the food item increases the rate of adulteration.
  • To increase the quantity of food production, earn money and to make food look more fresh and natural.



To avoid the adulterated food completely is a hard task, however we can try to some extent. Some measures to avoid adulterated foods are

  • At first, we should consume the food items of well known brands as far as possible.
  •  Secondly, we should not run after the lower price goods, moreover to the goods lower than market prevalent rate.
  • It is better not to buy the most good looking and shiny fruits and vegetables , it could be colored or artificially ripened.
  • Also, colored and polished pulses and rice look shiny .
  •  Similarly, manufacturing and expiry date of the food stuffs should be properly examined before buying them.
  • In fact, at the case of suspicion and identification one could complain against the persons involved in adulteration.
  • However, regular market surveys to warn people of the dangerous build – up of toxins in food.
  •  For example by stepping up the integrated pest management program to teach families the use of pesticides. Similarly no spraying should be done a week before harvest
  • Also by using safer pesticides, too.
  • Also, by washing the vegetables thoroughly before the usage.


What is the difference between  adulteration and contamination?

The difference between adulteration and contamination are:

Adulteration Contamination
As it is related to quality characteristic of  food But it is related to safety of food
Not necessary to be health hazardous For example: vanaspati Ghee in pure ghee On the other hand it indicates the hazardous for health. For example: E. coli in drinking water
Generally intentional Generally accidental or unintentional


Frequently asked questions(FAQs)


What is the difference between food additives and food adulteration?

However, food adulteration refers to the addition or mixture of unwanted materials to the food but food additives are the substances which are added. And hence, to maintain food freshness and taste, texture as well as appearance of food.


Is food adulteration legal?

No, food adulteration is not legal. But businessmen do it for business and other purposes.


Is adding additives to the food is legal?

Yes, adding additives which does not affect the human health consequently is legal.

What is food?

Anything that consequently nourishes the body is food.

Why is food adulteration harmful?

Food adulteration is harmful because it  truly contains foreign particles which consequently effect our health. Besides this, food adulteration is nowadays a major public health issue.

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