Jaggery is generally thought to be a better alternative to white sugar, but this is not the case. Sucrose is sucrose. This fact does not change whether the sucrose is refined as in white sugar, or whether it has natural impurities, like in jaggery.
In addition, there are other safety issues to consider in India. In a recent report to the Government, the Cooperation Department published a report which shows that a host of chemicals and adulterants are used in several jaggery-making units.
The report alleges that the jaggery units in Mandya in Karnataka are using different types of chemicals/additives, like calcium hydroxide, sodium hydrosulphite (hydrose), sodium formaldehyde sulfoxylate (safolite), ortho-phosphoric acid, seashells, baking soda, oil (castor/coconut), and orange-red powder (artificial food colouring).
Kolhapur in Maharashtra has been traditionally a large jaggery producing area with the economy depending on jaggery cultivation since the time of Shivaji Maharaj and Shahu Maharaj.
Mixing sugarcane juice with chemicals and lime, was the popular method to make jaggery in Kolhapur. Cane juice used to be mixed with fine calcium, iron, vitamin and other ingredients which were not necessarily toxic. However, nowadays this traditional process of producing jaggery has changed with farmers wanting a deep yellow colour, and resorting to mixing extra sulfur and other dangerous chemicals including sodium carbonate, met nil yellow, ZFS, sodium hydro phosphates, calcium carbonate and others, which are not endangers the health of consumers, but also defames India’s jaggery industry.
Harmful Chemicals In Your Jaggery
The reason behind using these additives is to remove impurities easily and give it the desired colour.
Karnataka currently ranks third in sugarcane cultivation and in Mandya district alone there are 532 jaggery manufacturing units with an output of at least 10 lakh tonnes of jaggery a year.
Jaggery samples were collected from Mandya, Yeshwantpur and Mahalingapur in Karnataka state were sent to be tested at the Regional Agmark Laboratory, Guntur. The tests revealed that higher level of sulphur dioxide residue was found in light coloured jaggery samples from Mandya market than the samples collected from Yeshwantpur and Mahalingapur markets. This could be attributed to the excess use of chemicals such as hydrose and safolite, the report said.
Sodium hydrosulphite, which is commonly used as a reducing/bleaching agent in textiles, dyeing, leather, paper pulp and other industries, was used as a bleaching agent in jaggery manufacturing.
Use Safer Alternatives
CFTRI, Mysuru, suggested the use of vegetable clarificants as a safe alternative to chemicals.