Turmeric Adulterations and other Informations

Turmeric is one of the most used spice in Indian kitchen. My mother never bought any grounded spices as the chances of adulteration is more as compared to whole spices. She used to buy whole haldi which was grounded in "imaam (mortel) dasta (pestle)" till we bought a mixer grinder. 
Turmeric is an important ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking. It's used in almost every dish. The purity of such an important spice matters. Grinding whole coriander seeds or whole chillies is easy and I have found them easily in shops. But I could never get whole turmeric. With more and more working women, buying ready to use grounded spices has become a necessity. It's my personal opinion that powdered spices can be adulterated easily as compared to whole spices. But its not always possible to find time to ground spices at home, so the smart move is to checks for adulteration and purity. 
Turmeric Adulterations and other Informations
Turmeric Hills

How turmeric is powdered?
Turmeric is an underground stem. It's first boiled in water for an hour, dried in oven and then grounded into fine powder. 
Why turmeric may be adulterated?
Adulteration is an act of corrupting, debasing or making a substance impure by adding an inferior and less valuable material. Food items are usually adulterated with inferior substances. Many a times the adulterants are harmful and not fit for consumption. They are adulterated to enhance visual appearance, increase volume or 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 the turmeric powder.The preferred  adulterants are the chemical substances like Metanil yellow, chalk powder, metal ions, lead chromate and traces of solvent used in extraction and processing. They are harmful and not fit for human consumption.

 Metanil Yellow is a dye and is used in analytical chemistry. It's added to boost yellow colour of the turmeric powder, especially in India. 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 poisonous for humans. If consumed in very small quantities, it can cause constipation, anaemia, insomnia 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 high percentage of lead contents in turmeric samples, much beyond the permissible limits.

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

Chalk powder is generally added to enhance volume. It's 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. Stomach irritation, muscle and joint pain, vision problems, mental confusions and even short term dementia may be the results of heavy metals on humans. Accumulation over a long period may result in serious illnesses like mental retardation, organ damage and risk of cancer.

Testing for Adulteration in Turmeric:

* Mix a tea spoon of haldi in water. The streaks of water soluble colours will point to lead chromate.
*One of the easiest method to check purity of turmeric is to add a spoon full of turmeric powder in a glass of warm water. Donot stir. Check after 20 minutes. The pure turmeric powder will settle down, leaving a cleqar water above.
*Take one teaspoon of turmeric powder in a test tube / glass flask. Add few drops of concentrated Hydrochloric 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 pink colour stays, it has Metanil yellowIf you witness effervescence then there is chalk powder present in turmeric.

Turmeric Adulterations and other Informations
Turmeric Flower

Turmeric is an important ingredient of our kitchens. If by such a small effort, we can save ourselves and our loved ones, it's worth trying. Isn't it?
Photo Credit: Google