Food Adulteration Hazards
Food is an essential element of life. Food nourishes a human since the very early of its life while in mother’s womb (embryonic life). Human in its embryonic stage remain connected to mother’s circulation. Thus it gets its all nutrition from mother. After birth the human (baby) disconnected from mother and still he remains dependent to mother’s milk for his nutrition. Subsequently as the human grown up he started to take food directly. Man is running after food since the beginning of human history. Prehistoric human lived as pure hunter gatherer and ate only the natural food that could be obtained from hunting and collecting vegetable materials such as roots, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds. He knows it is mandatory to have food for life. Before the invention of fire 250,000 yrs ago man used to live on hunting and picking wild fruits and vegetables. Our ancestors were also ate accessorily, vegetables (leafy vegetables, vegetable shoots, and undoubtedly time to time wild cereals). In ancient day man used to take raw food such fruits, vegetable item, animal flashes or fish. As the invention of fire the living style changed abruptly. Human learnt to smoke the animal flashes or fishes. Cooking makes eating easier and faster. As the development of agriculture man started to plant his own food and produce cereals (wheat, rye, barely, pulse, vegetables and fruit etc.) As compared to the hunter- food pickers, the farmer cattleman had considerably reduced the variety of food he ate. In fact very few animals could be domesticated and certain vegetables could be grown. Ultimately human accustomed with a variety of recipe with the advancement of civilization. But they dot not know why food is so essential for life or how food helps us to live. With the advancement of science it is now revealed how food act or play role in human body. Now a day food is a luxurious item in living style of human.
Ingredient in food:
Food has six basic elements: 1) Carbohydrate, 2) Protein, 3) Fat, 4) Vitamins, 5) Minerals and 6) Water.
Carbohydrate– it is the source of sugar or calorie. In the food item it may remain as simple sugar (fructose or sucrose) or complex one that is starch. Again starch ultimately has been broken down in to simple sugar to provide energy to the body. This sugar or calorie is the fuel for the thousands of chemical reaction occurring consistently in the body. Once the sugar or calorie supply has been curtailed all the needful metabolic or chemical reactions within the body will slow downed and man will ultimately die.
Protein: it is the main structural component of the human body. Cells, muscle, bone, hormones, enzymes etc. are all made up of protein. Protein acts as a building block of the human body.
Fat: it acts as a dual function in the body. It can provide calorie to function like sugar and also act as complementary to protein to form the structural component of the body like cells, hormones, enzymes etc.
Vitamins & minerals: Vegetables and minerals provide immunity to the body against different diseases or environmental effects. It also play role directly or indirectly in different chemical reactions in the body.
Water: it is the main bulk of the body. Without water every system within the body will collapsed. Life cannot be thought of without water.
Each food component has its own specified function. The series of bio-chemical reactions are occurring in the body consistently in a harmonious way. Any error in one reaction thus may invite a gross error in performance of the system of the body resulting of various dysfunction or diseases or even cancer like sequel. So every ingredient should have its own intact quality so that the bio-chemical reactions can proceed smoothly without any hazards. So it is very much dangerous to have a food, which has been adulterated.
Adulteration: food adulteration is the act of internationally debasing the quality of food offered for sale either by the admixture or substitution of inferior substances or by the removal of same valuable ingredient.
When food is to be declared as adulterated?
- A substance is added which depreciates or injuriously affects the food.
- Cheaper or inferior substances are substituted wholly or in part.
- Any valuable or necessary constituent has been wholly or in part abstracted
- It is an imitation.
- It is colored or otherwise treated to improve its appearance or if it contains any substance injurious to health.
Adulteration of food may be intentional or unintentional. Use of pesticide in crops may adulterate the procured crops which is an example of unintentional adulteration.
Intentional adulteration is a usual phenomenon today. It is done to attract the consumers of the item and simultaneously to increase the profit margin.
Different adulterations & health hazards:
- Adulteration with colors/ dye: several colors such as, copper, zinc or indigo dye are mixed with soft drinks (Cola, fruit juice etc.), alcohol even different sauces to make it attractive. Though the effect of these dyes are not apparent immediately it may cause cancer in long run.
Aniline dye are mixed with turmeric powder and this dye is carcinogenic (substances cause cancer).
- Amylum is one kind of complex starch (indigestible). It is used to thicken the sauces. It is injurious to health.
- Cane sugar– is used to adulterate honey. It causes obesity, diabetes. It also may causes harmful effect like damage to nerve and eyes.
- Urea– it is used routinely with rice prior to parch so that it becomes whiter. Urea also used as a preservative to preserve fish, meat and vegetable item. Farmer uses urea in their firm to feed their cattle to make it fleshy and bulky specially to sell it in high price on Eid-ul Azha. In both cases urea permanently mixes with rice or fleshes of meat. When a person eats such food for long time he/she become obese, Skin rashes even more dangerous situation like kidney damage or liver damage might happened.
- Formalin-is the aqueous solution of formaldehyde, a highly toxic chemical compound. Formalin ingestion can cause severe injury to upper gastrointestinal tract. It causes childhood asthma. Chronic exposure has been show to result in significant damage to pulmonary function and reproductive problem in women, It is generally used to preserve dead body or in medical lab to preserve tissue specimen or to sterilize the instruments or related things in hospital. Unfortunately this formaldehyde now used to preserve in kitchen market to preserve fish, meat, fruits (Grapes, Mango, Orange and Malta etc.); milk & milk product. It causes cough, respiratory distress, diarrhea and chronic consumption of these foods will cause kidney or liver failure even cancer. Chronic ingestion by pregnant women may cause congenital anomalies and mental retardation of the baby.
- Calcium Carbide– it is normally used in Steel mill and welding Factory. It is also used in crackers. Now the dishonest businessman used the calcium carbide to ripen the fruit commonly mango, banana, papaya, pineapple etc.
Basic mechanism of ripening of fruits:
At the end of the maturation of a fruit the amount of ethylene in fruit increases naturally. It is a plant hormone. The sources of ethylene in plant are stem, root, leaf, fruit, flower etc. The ethylene activates the gene, which releases enzymes such as amylase and pectinase. Amylase breaks the complex carbohydrate to its simpler form (fructose & sucrose). Fructose and Sucrose are responsible for sweetness of the ripe fruit. Another enzyme pectinase acts on the pectin, the hard skin of the fruit and makes it softer. The green color of the fruit is due to chlorophyll, which is converted to cerotenoid. Thus the color of the fruits become yellowish or color of ripe fruits.
How calcium carbide ripens the fruits?
Calcium carbide reacts with water to form calcium hydroxide and acetylene gas. This acetylene gas is equivalent to ethylene gas in ripening the fruits. Acetylene is completely safe agent. The culprit is calcium carbide itself as it is contaminated with toxic agent Arsenic & Phosphorus. When calcium carbide comes in contact with the fruits it penetrates the skin of fruits and enters in to the fleshes of fruit. When we ingest fruit the chemical reaches our body and causes damage. Chronic ingestion may cause damage to liver and kidney. Cancer may occur. Children are more vulnerable to this toxic agent. Ethylene spray is the safe agent to ripe the fruit but it is comparatively costly. Acetylene gas is also safe. Here it must be ensured that the calcium carbide will not come in contact with the fruits.
- Ethufen– is another toxic agent used to ripen the pineapple. Here the ethopen gas has been sprayed to the body of pineapple in the field. Just after finishing the spray the pineapples are collected and transshipped for marketing. As within couple of days the pineapples are reached the consumers it become ripened and got an attractive color. Danger is that by this time the ethopen penetrate the skin and enter in to the fruit. It is also used to ripe the Papaya, Banana, Tomato, Jackfruit etc. The vulnerable organs are liver & kidney, which are commonly damaged by the toxic agent.
- Edible oil or fats are adulterated with Argemone oil, which lead to Glaucoma (eye disease causes blindness), cardiac problem and cancer.
Dr. Md. Sayedul HoqueMBBS, FCPS, MS (ophth) National Eye Care Centre Ring Road, Shyamoli, Dhaka. Ex-Associate Professor National Institute of Ophthalmology & Hospital