Turmeric Adulterations and other Informations

In my last blog post, I have mentioned about how to make pure turmeric powder from the raw haldi roots. It‘s so easy to make. But why should one go to do that extra effort?

Turmeric fields 
Turmeric is an important ingredient in Indian and South East Asian cooking. We use it in almost every vegetable and dals.  Its purity is important. Making dhaniya (coriander) and mirchi (red chillies) powders is easy and many of the households make it at home, though there are ever increasing kitchen managers, who are opting for the grounded masalas. I personally feel that, it’s easier to contaminate powdered spices than whole spices, so it’s good to opt for whole masalas and then ground them at home. Since it’s not always possible, it’s smart to check for any adulteration before using them.

How turmeric is powdered?
When not used fresh, they are boiled in water for about an hour and then dried in ovens.
They are then grounded to fine powder, packed and ready for consumption.

Why turmeric may be adulterated?
Adulteration is defined as an act of corrupting, debasing or making a substance impure by adding an inferior material, especially in preparation of items for sale by replacing the actual material with agents , less valuables. Food items are usually adulterated with inferior and harmful substances, many a time unfit for consumption. They are adulterated to improve visual appearance, increase volume and to increase shelf life.

Common adulterants in turmeric

Foreign substances like edible food colours and volume enhancers like starch or rice powder, which may not be harmful but decrease the potency of your turmeric powder.The chemical substances like Metanil yellow, chalk powder, metal ions, lead chromate and traces of solvent used in extraction and processing are harmful and not fit for human consumption.

 Metanil Yellow is a dye and is used in analytic chemistry. It's added to boost yellow colour of the turmeric powder, especially in India. (Wikipedia). Even small quantities can be very harmful as this is accumulated in body over a period of time. It's highly carcinogenic and is found to slow down brain's ability to learn and cause stomach disorders.

Lead is poisnous for humans. Its consumption even in very small quantities can cause constipation, anaemia, insomania etc which may manifest later in brain damage or mental retardation. It may contaminate turmeric during the growth of the herb or during processing. Various reports from India and Bangladesh have mentioned about lead contents in turmeric samples in such high quantities to cause soil and water contamination.

Lead Chromate is yellow in colour and is added to enhance the yellowness of turmeric. It's a toxic chemical and can cause wide range of harmful effects like paralysis, anaemia, nerve disorders, abortion and even brain damage.

Chalk powder is generally added to enhance volume. Its made yellow in colour before adding to the turmeric. It's not edible but is not as harmful as the chemical adultration but none the less, it's harmful.

Heavy metals may be from pesticides residue or contaminated soil and water as curcumin can easily bind to metals. hence some turmeric supplies can easily contain them and might exceed the safety limits. Stomach irritation, muscle and joint pain, vision problems, mental confusions and even short term dementia may be the resultsd of heavy metals on humans. Accumulation over a long period may result in serious issues like mental retardation, organ damage and risk of cancer.

Testing for Adulteration in Turmeric:

* One of the easiest method to check for adulteration in turmeric is to take a glass of warm water. Add a spoon full of turmeric powder. Do not stir. Leave it for some time. Check after 15-20 minutes. if powder settles down leaving a clear water above, it's pure.

* Mix a tea spoon of haldi in water. The streaks of water soluble colours will point to lead chromate. 

*Take one teaspoon of turmeric powder in a test tube / glass flask. Then add few drops of concentrated Hydrocholric acid (HCL) in it. If pink colour appears instantly but then disappears after adding some water turmeric does not have the artificial colour. But if it remains, it has Metanil yellow.

Turmeric flower
*Take small amount of turmeric. Add it into a test tube / glass flask. Add some water. Now add a few drops of concentrated HCL to it. If you witness effervescence then there is chalk powder present in turmeric.

Turmeric is an important ingredient of Indian and South eastern cooking. If by such a small effort, we can save ourselves and our loved ones, it's worth trying. Isn't it?

 We are looking forward to hear from you about your efforts and experiences!!

Photos are from google/internet. Credit goes to the creator.