Food Adulteration and its harmful effects

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Food adulteration is a global issue and adulteration in food has been a major concern, as it not only decreases the quality of food products but also results in harmful effects and diseases. During civilization, people realized about its importance and felt necessary for authentic testing, detection of adulterants and to ensure consumer protection.

First, let’s learn the ‘Meaning of Adulteration’ and drive deeper into the types of adulteration, cite some of the examples, let us caution ourselves about its harmful effects and prevention methods and safety tips to avoid adulterated foods.

What is meant by food adulteration?

Food adulteration is an act of deliberately degrading the quality of food by the addition or mixing of inferior, substandard, poor quality, harmful substance to increase the quantity of food and to gain economic and technical benefits.

Types of food adulterants

Intentional adulterants

This adulterant includes substances like sand, stones, mud, chalk powder, mineral oils and other harmful colours.

Incidental adulterants

This types of adulterant include substances like pesticides residues, droppings of rodents, and larvae of insects.

Metallic contaminants

It includes arsenic from pesticides used, tin from the cans, and lead from water.

Why food is adulterated?

The main reason for food adulteration is to increase the quantity of food to be sold, thereby increasing sales. Other reasons include;

  • Practised as a part of business strategy
  • To meet the quality standard set by the government or demanded by consumers
  • Imitation of some other food substance
  • Increased food demand for a rapidly growing population

Prevention of food adulteration

It was observed that the practice of adding adulterants to the food are common in developing countries due to increased demand in food products by the ever-increasing population.

Every year, on 7th of April, World Health Day is celebrated and WHO is missioned for creating awareness, educate the population on adulterations of food products, and encourage people to have a healthy, balanced diet.

Safety tips to avoid adulteration

  • While consuming processed foods, avoid dark-coloured and junks
  • During storage, clean all cereals, pulses and other food products properly
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in running water properly
  • Check the seal for food products like packaged milk and canned items
  • Look out for 7 labelling requirements like name of the product, manufacturing date, ingredients used, and date expiry

Examples of food adulteration

These act of addition or mixing of inferior, substandard, alien to actual product not only decreases the quality of food product but it can create harmful effects, can be hazardous to human health, and it can cause stomach disorder.

  1. Addition of diluted water to milk and milk products
  2. Addition of banana with butter
  3. Tea leaf is adulterated with same colour edible or non-edible leaves
  4. Wheat is adulterated with ergot (fungus containing poisonous substance)
  5. Using chemical dye for fruits and vegetables which carcinogenic
  6. Honey is adulterated with molasses sugar to increase the quantity

Harmful effects of food adulteration

It may also lead to cancer, life-threatening disease.

Adulterated food is harmful to our body because it can be toxic and affect our health as well as deteriorates the nutritional value of the food products we purchase. Nutrients are essential for our body and if we don’t get recommended nutrients and minerals, it may affect the proper growth and development of the human body.

Diseases caused by food adulteration

In most cases, adulterated foods may cause cancer like colon, ulcer diseases, liver diseases, kidney failures and heart diseases.

Food poisoning is also related to adulterated or contaminated foods which may further lead to diseases like fusarium toxin, epidemic dropsy, aflatoxin, and endemic ascites.


This article ‘Food adulteration and its harmful effects‘ is intended for general information only. It does not address individual circumstances or is not a substitute for any professional advice. You are hereby advised to take concrete decisions after the following advice from medical or nutritionist professionals.