Friday, February 17, 2012


The "Law of Adulteration" operates on an economic scale and higher the cost of a food, more incentive is available to the fraudster to go for adulteration. Thus very few cases of adulteration is reported in low cost foods like cereals and others while high cost substances like edible oils, pulses, spices, etc are frequently tampered with. For example Saffron is one of the most commonly imitated or adulterated substances because its cost is almost astronomical. Similarly spices like black pepper also are attractive media for adulteration. Who ever is not familiar with milk adulteration which, according to the food safety watch dog in India has reached alarming levels crying for immediate remedial action to stem the rot. China, like India is also bedeviled by rabid food adulteration and the Melamine tainted milk which caused serious health damage to thousands of children three years ago cannot be easily forgotten. Here comes the latest"innovation in food adulteration" from China where shrimp traders are reported o be using gelatin to increase the weight of frozen shrimp!

"The follows reports that sellers in Tianjin in northern China were injecting shrimps with the additive to increase their weight and improve their appearance. Gu Zhenhua, vice director of Shanghai Food Safety Office, said food additives should only be used when necessary. "There is no need to put gelatin into shrimp," Gu said. "It is illegal to add unnecessary additives into food, even though in this case they don't harm people's health." Officials from Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau said they haven't found any gelatin-injected shrimps in local wet markets. According to China National Radio, some Tianjin shoppers recently found that shrimps had been injected with gelatin. One Tianjin resident, surnamed Zhang, said she saw some good-sized shrimps with strong color and big heads in a wet market and bought 2.5 kilogram. "But when I started washing them, I found their heads fell off easily and there was a jelly-like substance inside," she said. Wet market vendors admitted frozen shrimps were injected with gelatin, a legal food additive used in making candy. This made them look fresh and bulked them up - adding 20 to 30 percent to their weight. Sellers defended the practice, claiming it was completely safe as gelatin is a legal food additive. But Ye Jiannong, a national political adviser and chemistry professor in Shanghai, said vendors were wrong to do this. "They just want to earn more money by adding unnecessary additives," Ye said.

The attraction for easy money is a human trait and same is understandable as long as the money is made through honest means. Those indulging in manipulating the food quality through addition of cheap extraneous substances do not think for a moment the agony and pain suffered by the consumers who eat such unsuspecting foods without ever being aware of the same and such fraudsters deserve the gallows, if the law permits such a deterrent punishment. In the above case gelatin is at least a permitted ingredient that can be used in some foods for its functional properties and after all it is also a protein, albeit of very low quality from nutritional angle. This does not condone the act because it is till an adulteration with economic dimension. In India there are thousands of instances of food adulteration, most of them go unnoticed and unpunished because of the lax attitude of the safety agencies at State as well as Central levels. NGO's and Citizen groups only can bring these fraudsters to book by being proactive and eternal vigilance.


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