Adulteration of Spices: Simple Steps to Detect Adulteration in Spices

It is a well-known fact that Indian food is incomplete without spices and condiments. The flavour and aroma of these spices have a central place in Indian food. However, with every passing day we hear stories about how these spices are being adulterated and their purity (or lack of it) is a grave matter of concern to millions of Indians.

Purchasing loosely sold spices from the neighborhood kirana store increases the chance that the spices have been adulterated, as it is very easy to add sub-standard materials to spices and the customer will rarely figure it out. The spices that are commonly adulterated in India are coriander powder, dried ginger powder, red chilli powder, cardamom, cumin powder and garam masala powder. These spices are mixed with food colour, starch, coloured saw dust, brick powder and other stuff . Spices in India often also contain pesticides higher than limits prescribed by the European Union.

According to Dr V Sudarshan Rao, a Scientist from Food Safety division of NIN, “Many times, papaya seeds are ground and mixed with synthetic gum to make it seem like black-pepper. This happens as pepper is costly and mixing them with papaya seeds makes it cheaper for miscreants.”

Effect of consuming adulterated spices

The health of millions of Indians is being compromised daily with the adulteration of spices and some of the symptoms of consuming these adulterated spices are nausea, vomiting, and blurred vision. More serious long term or irreversible health problems are possible depending upon the nature of the adulteration.

Simple steps for detection of adulteration of spices

Detecting adulteration of Spices is actually simple and can be done at home. So if you think that the spices you have purchased are adulterated you can just follow these simple steps to know for sure:

Turmeric powder- Turmeric is indispensable in Indian kitchens. A commonly used adulterant is lead chromate, which gives it a bright yellow colour and is soluble in water. To detect this adulterant, the powder can be mixed with water and placed in a beaker. If adulterated, it will immediately leak colour.

Red chili powder: It is a very commonly used spice in India, and also the most adulterated among all spices. The most commonly used adulterants in it are sawdust and brick powder. Just add a teaspoon of chili powder to a glass of water and swirl it. Adulterated chili powder will dispel a red swirl of colour.

Powdered spices: Immersing powdered spices in water will ensure that the adulterants float on the surface of the water, while the remaining spices settle at the bottom.


Posted in Food and Health