Did you know that common spices from turmeric to chilli powder, often contain adulterants and are mixed? In a raid conducted by FDA in Bhopal, adulterated spices were confiscated and on inspection the adulterants were found to be carcinogens.
Many locally packed spices are found containing harmful substances like coloured crushed rice husk which is used to increase the weight of the product and carcinogenic colours used to make it look rich and improve feel of the spices.
A very large share of spices on shelves in retail shops and supermarkets are suspected to be adulterated with their respective adulterants. Mustard seeds have been found to be mixed with argemone seeds which causes glaucoma, epidemic dropsy and cardiac arrest.
White chilli powder is dyed with ‘sudan red’, which is a carcinogenic artificial dye to turn it into an expensive looking red chilli powder; whole red chillies are adulterated with a coal tar based dye to enhance their appearance.
In case of mace of nutmeg tree ,adulteration using mace from a wild species of nutmeg which is inferior in quality and shows different chemical constitution is prevalent.
Saffron (better known as kesar in India), dubbed as the costliest spice at about three lakh rupees per kilogram, is adulterated with coloured gelatin fibres and dyed parts of various wild plants. True saffron is a rarity not just because it grows in limited regions with appropriate climatic conditions, but also because pure stigmas of saffron flower have to be harvested during the dawn as they lose aroma and colour after that.
Many non branded, locally packed spices sold by kirana shops do not contain any spice properties in it but actually are used spices. The spice properties are extracted and used to make flavouring agents so what is left is the outer skin or husk of the spices or in some cases the fresh spices are mixed with used spices.
It is very difficult to know which spices sold in the market are pure or adulterated, one way is to only purchase it from trusted shops and to grind your whole spices at home instead of buying powdered spices.
Pesticide contamination is also a big problem. In 2014, Saudi Arabia banned the import of red chilies from india due to high pesticide content.
In December 2012, 6000 tonnes of black pepper was found to be adulterated with mineral oil and seized. Mineral oil used in adulterated black pepper is made of burnt diesel, paraffin oil, white petroleum and other un-digestible and insoluble petroleum products. Black pepper coated with mineral oil is considered carcinogenic, and even otherwise harmful for human consumption.