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Adulteration in spices:

Adulteration in spices

Presented to: Dr. Zaheer-ud-Din:

Presented to: Dr. Zaheer - ud -Din Presented By : Saba Riaz


Spices A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark or vegetative substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities as a food additive for the purpose of flavoring and sometimes as a preservative by killing or preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. Any aromatic part of plant or plant product is commonly known as spices . spices have little nutritive value. Spices may be used to impart various colors to the food such as turmeric, chilies, saffron etc . word ”spice ” is derived from the Latin word “ species" , meaning specific kind of goods or merchandise.

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FDA defines spice as: “any aromatic vegetable substance in the whole, broken, or ground form, except for those substances which have been traditionally regarded as foods, such as onion, garlic; whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutritional; that is true to name; and from which no portion of any volatile oil or other flavoring principle has been removed .”

What is Adulteration?:

What is Adulteration? Adulteration can be defined as the inclusion in foods with constituents whose presence is prohibited by regulation, custom and practice or “making impure by adding inferior, alien or less desirable materials or elements.”

What is adulterant:

What is adulterant Under the Prevention of Food Adulterant Act, an Adulterant is any material which may be employed for the purposes of adulteration. Toxic adulterants: food may contain some items which are toxic to health and may cause serious diseases e.g lead chromate in turmeric powder. Non toxic adulterants: food also contain material which is not toxic but still is an adulterant e.g useless parts mixed with useful parts.

Food is adulterated if::

Food is adulterated if: If any inferior or cheaper substance has been substituted wholly or in part, If any constituent of the article has been wholly or in part abstracted If the article has been prepared, packed or kept under insanitary conditions If the article consists in part filthy, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable or is infested with insects

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5. If the article is obtained from diseased plant 6. If the article contains any poisonous ingredient 7. If the article has unprescribed colouring substance or the colouring substance is in excess of the prescribed limits. 8. If the article contains any prohibited or excessive preservatives. 9. If the quality nor purity of the article falls below prescribed standard

Economic adulteration:

E conomic adulteration The addition of adulterants to food to increase attractiveness and value is often referred to as “economic adulteration” Adulteration may occasionally be a public health issue as when a toxic substance is added to food as an adulterant.

incidental adulteration:

incidental adulteration Mixturing adulterant by incident or by chance or accidently Most spices are harvested in third world countries where available facilities and sanitation practices are not as advanced as those from developing and developed nations and thus allowing for incidental adulteration also called a dmixturing


History/Background The adulteration of food products was first seen hundreds of years ago, with Greek botanist Theophrastus (370 – 285 BC) reporting on the use of artificial flavors in the food supply and on the use of adulterants for economic reasons in some items of commerce. Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) detailed adulteration in a variety of food products, including the use of juniper berries in pepper. Ancient physician Galen (131 – 201 AD) also raised concern about food adulteration, including pepper.

Why Adulteration Occurs:

Why Adulteration Occurs There are a variety of reasons. The most obvious and simplest reason is to increase profit . A manufacturer may use a cheap filler that is easily disguised in the spice to increase the volume sold thereby cutting the cost of pure spice, and thereby increasing the ultimate profit margin. The second reason is to be able to compete. If a manufacturer cannot meet the quality criteria of the customer he may adulterate the product for example, capsicums may be adulterated to meet a color specification set by the customer or to allow the manufacturer to offer a lower priced product that allows him to compete.

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3. The adulterated product may be more visually appealing than the pure spice. when the artificial color is added to the red chili it looks more red and visually more appealing. 4. Finally, adulteration may be market driven, the result of cost-cutting pressures. As customers squeeze their suppliers to reduce costs, there comes a point when the supplier can no longer sustain his margin. At that point, instead of turning down the business, the supplier may adulterate the product to lower the cost and maintain a workable margin.

Examples of Spice Adulteration:

Examples of Spice Adulteration Spices containing non-spice material : The inclusion of spent black pepper meal in ground black pepper. The inclusion of defatted paprika in unaltered paprika renders it adulterated Spices containing undeclared or unapproved color additives: The inclusion of undeclared or unapproved color additives renders a spice adulterated. Recent examples include turmeric and other color additives in paprika , in chili powder, and various color additives in saffron. Such instances may present a public health risk. Spices with valuable constituents removed: In recent years there have been several examples of spices that have been marketed with valuable constituents removed e.g the cinnamon sold with essential oil removed.

Most common spices that are adulterated:

Most common spices that are adulterated Saffron: It is the most expensive food item in the world because about 80,000 flowers are required to obtain 500g of the saffron it costs 3000Rs. for each 10g so chance of adulteration is very high in saffron. Red chili: Red chili is most commonly used spice, so to increase the volume and to gain profit it is also adulterated. Black pepper: The demand of black pepper is very high throughout the world, so chance of its adulteration is very high. Turmeric powder: Turmeric powder also is the most commonly used spice, so it may be mostly found adulterated.

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As most spices are in ground form so it is hard to point out the adulterant via visual methods and by using the typical anatomical and microscopic methods but certain chemical methods are there by which we can successfully detect the adulterant.

Distinguishing cinnamon bark from cassia bark:

Distinguishing cinnamon bark from cassia bark cinnamon bark has secretary oil cells that produce volatile essence well known for its wide use as spice and essence. Cinnamon bark is i rregularly fissured The middle region contains groups of sclereids and phloem fibers are abundant.

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Paracytic stomata in cassia bark. Paracytic stomata in cinnamon bark.

Nigella sativa (Ranunculaceae) kalonji, black cumin:

Nigella sativa ( Ranunculaceae ) kalonji , black cumin Other names: Fennel flower, Roman coriander, Nutmeg flower, Black seed, Black Onion seed, Black caraway Nigella sativa is native to southern Europe and western Asia. In pakistan it is cultivated in plain region as a summer crop. plant part Used: The deep black, sharp-edged seed. Black cumin is highly scented and slightly bitter. It is commonly used as spice for flavoring and in eastern medicines.

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Adulterant : Seeds of onion Resemblances : physical resemblances of dried seeds of both make it difficult to distinguish

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How to distinguish : Seeds are easily confused with seeds of onion but with keen observation both can be distinguished. Seeds of onion are irregular in outline, slightly big, angular shaped, rough in texture while Nigella seeds are triangular, small, black grains with a rough surface and an oily white interior. Anatomy of seed is also different because onion is monocot while kalonji is dicot . in India, Carum carvi is the substitute of the black cumin

Piper nigrum (Piperaceae) black pepper :

Piper nigrum ( Piperaceae ) black pepper Other names: peppercorns, kali mirch This perennial climbing shrub is indigenous to western coast of Pakistan, India . Black pepper is one of the oldest and most important of the spices. It as a culinary spice and condiment is well-known throughout the world

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The whole dried berry (peppercorn) is used for black pepper and berry has a distinctive spicy taste. Its dried fruit is black and wrinkled. Black pepper is a more pungent due to various resins.

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Adulterant : Seeds of Papaya Resemblances : physical resemblances of dried seeds of both make it difficult to distinguish

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How to distinguish: Pour the seeds in a beaker containing Carbon tetra-chloride. Black papaya seeds float on the top while the pure black pepper settle down. Black pepper is berry so microscopic study of seed and berry also help in identification.

Crocus sativus (Iridaceae) saffron:

Crocus sativus ( Iridaceae ) saffron Other names: zafran , kesar , autumn crocus, hay saffron, crocus, gatinais Saffron is dried stigma and part of style of flower. Style and stigma are manually removed and about 80,000 flowers are required to produce 500g of saffron. That is why it is most expensive plant product in world. Each saffron crocus flower has 3 stigmas.

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It is highly aromatic and slightly bitter. It is used in expensive medicines and in expensive dishes and butter for colouring and flavouring . It has a distinctive taste.

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Adulterant : flower of Carthamus t inctorius ( Saf - flower; Parrot seeds), colored straws, coloured dried tendrils of maize cob and other flowers are also used. Resemblances : color and shape of adulterant is much similar to the original one

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How to distinguished : Pure saffron when allowed to dissolved in water will continue to give its colour so long as it lasts. Pure saffron will not break easily like artificial.

Capsicum annuum (solanaceae) red pepper :

Capsicum annuum ( solanaceae ) red pepper Other names: L al mirch , chili pepper, red pepper, capsaicin, Cayenne Pepper There are actually numerous varieties of chili pepper . Most have varying degrees of spiciness. Many varieties of chilies are cultivated in Pakistan. Whole pods are called "chilies." Dried fruit is used in ground form as spice and in Medicines. It is used to give colouration and flavor to food.


Adulterants colored flour, Brick powder grit, sand, dirt, filth, saw dust. Resemblance: due to same color and powdery form they look like red pepper. How to distinguish: Pour the sample in a beaker containing a mixture of chloroform and carbon tetrachloride. Brick powder and grit will settle at the bottom.

Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Lauraceae) cinnamon:

Cinnamomum zeylanicum ( Lauraceae ) cinnamon Other names: dar cheni , true cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon It is native to sri lanka and southern india where it occurs wild. Bark of various evergreen trees of the cinnamomum family is used as spice. Two main types are Zeylanicum (Ceylon) is tan colored, thin bark, mild, sweet flavor. Cassia is reddish brown, thicker bark, strong cinnamon flavor, most popular in U.S. Cinnamomum cassia Cinnamomum zeylanicum

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True cinnamon is softer and sweeter than the Cassia variety. Use it in baked goods or beverages. It is slightly aromatic and sweet. Aroma is due to cinnamon oil and sugar is responsible for sweet taste. It is used for flavoring cakes and sweets.


Adulteration Bark of other trees is added after dying and adding essence . How to distinguished : tannins and oils found in cinnamon bark and oil contain cinnamaldehyde . By cutting section and observation under microscope true cinnamon bark can be identified easily. By soaking material in water so that if some colored substances is added that may be separated.

Ferula assafoetida (UmbelIiferae ) Heeng :

Ferula assafoetida ( UmbelIiferae ) Heeng It is commonly found in dry region of Pakistan such as chitral . Plant part used: Latex and extract . Plant has thick fleshy underground root. It has strong odour and is used in medicines and as spice in preparation of curry powders.

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Adulterant : Extract of garlic ( Allium sative ) is mixed with it, along with wheat flour. Soap stone, other earthy matter Resemblances : colour and texture is similar How to distinguished : by chemical analysis and through smell testing. Shake a little quantity of powdered sample with water. Soap stone or other earthy matter will settle at the bottom.

Bunium persicum ( Apiaceae) black cumin:

Bunium persicum ( Apiaceae ) black cumin Other names: kala zeera , shahi zeera It is commonly cultivated in Iran, Afghanistan ,Pakistan and different parts of India Parts used :seeds are commonly used The bush bears small size seeds and one can pluck them once. T he plant/bush is very dry. Not more than 5 to 8 grams of Zeera can be plucked from each bush, contributing to the high price


Adulterant : Cuminum cyminum ( zeera sfaid ) Grass seeds coloured with charcoal dust Seeds are soaked in water and put in darkness in sacks so that their color changes to dark just like that of black zeera . Resemblance: shape and size of both is similar. How to distinguished : Rub the cumin seeds on palms. If palms turn black adulteration is indicated.

Curcuma longa (zingeberaceae) Turmeric:

Curcuma longa ( zingeberaceae ) Turmeric Other names: haldi , yellow ginger, Indian saffron It is perennial, native to tropical Asia. It is cultivated in plain region of Punjab and NWFP. Part used : rhizome Turmeric is a root with a slightly bitter, spicy flavor. It is used in dry form. It is used as spice for flavoring and colouring of various food articles.

Adultrant :

Adultrant It may be adulterated with, Lead chromate, (which adds color as well as weight to it, being heavier), Yellow dye or any starch based items like flour or rice powder or even industrial starch. Except flour or rice powder, all the other adulterants are health hazardous and cause irreparable damage to our system and can cause anemia, paralyses, mental retardation and brain damage in children.

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How to distinguish: A microscopic study reveals that only pure turmeric is yellow coloured , While foreign/added starches are colourless and small in size as compared to pure turmeric starch.

Coriandrum sativum (Apiaceae) Coriander:

Coriandrum sativum ( Apiaceae ) Coriander Other names: dhania , cilantro, Chinese parsley plant, dizzycorn , Japanese parsley It is native to southwestern Asia and west to north Africa. Part used : seed portion of the Coriander plant.

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Coriander Seed are Small, rounded. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavor. It is also described as warm, nutty, spicy and orange flavoured .


Adulterant F or coriander powder or chili powder- sawdust, rice bran and sand is added as adulterant. One cannot even imagine horse-dung and cow-dung! This is not only unethical, from the business point of view, but a sin committed against the society at large. How to distinguish: Soak the sample in water. Dung will float and can be easily detected by its foul smell. Sprinkle on water surface. Powdered bran and sawdust float on the surface.

Evaluation of spices adulteration: :

Evaluation of spices adulteration: It means conformation of its identity and determination of its quality and impurity. Several methods are employed in detecting adulteration in genuine spices. In case of powdered spices, the microscopic characters may suffice the need of detection. So anatomical role in the identification of adulterant spices is very important by microscopic study of sample.

Methods of spices adulterants detection::

Methods of spices adulterants detection: By Morphological organoleptic evaluation By microscopic evaluation By chemical evaluation

Morphological organoleptic detection: :

Morphological organoleptic detection: It refers the evaluation of spices by color, taste, odor, size, shape and special features like touch, texture etc. it means conclusions drawn from studies resulted due to impression on organ of sense. Like the brown color of Cinnamon, odor and taste of spices like black paper, nutmeg, caraway, cumin etc are important diagnostic characteristics.

Anatomy role in the evaluation of spices adulterants: By microscope:

Anatomy role in the evaluation of spices adulterants: By microscope This method allows more detailed examination of a spice. It is a mostly used for the qualitative examination of organized spices in powdered form. For the effective result various reagents or stain can be used to distinguish cellular structure. Histological studies, like the characteristics of cell wall, trichome , fiber, or vessel.

Powdered Cardamom Seed::

Powdered Cardamom Seed: Brown to weak yellow to light olive green. It consists chiefly of fragments of perisperm,endosperm,embryo,and seed coat. The endosperm and perisperm cells are filled with starch grains from 1to 4µm in diameter or may contain one or more prisms of calcium oxalate from 10 to 25µm in diameter. The seed coat is characterized by its red-to orange-colored cells, is polygonal in surface view, and is about 20µm in diameter. Fragments of pericarp tissue with spiral vessels and with accompanying slightly lignified fibers are relatively few.

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The powered cloves ( Syzygium aromaticum ) do not contain sclereids or calcium oxalate crystals but both are present in powdered clove stalk. Powered cloves fruits show presence of starch while it is absent in cloves. Presence of non-lignified vessel in powder of ginger indicate the presence of adulterant. The diameter of starch grain in Cinnamomum cassia is 10 micron. The no of sclerenchyma cells per square cm in Cardamom is one of the criteria in the detection of varieties of Cardamom seeds in powdered form.

Chemical detection methods::

Chemical detection methods: high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) thin layer chromatography (TLC) gas chromatography mass spectroscopy (GC MS) Liquid chromatography mass spectroscopy (LC MS) enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) These methods are accurate and sensitive, but industrial applicability is hampered by cost and the need for specialist training.

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TLC method for the evaluation of Cinnamom and its substitute. Only Cinnamom contained both eugemol and cinnameldehyde while the substitute lacked one or other, as well as varying in other aspects. such as fiber structure of contents of calcium oxalate.

Prevention of adulteration: :

Prevention of adulteration: Preventing adulteration from occurring in the first place is essential to maintaining the confidence of customers and consumers. A number of steps can be taken to prevent adulterated spice from entering the food supply chain. awareness of the problems that can exist. existence of solid inspection. surveillance programs to maintain the integrity of the supply chain. Companies need to be very familiar with their suppliers. Ensure that your suppliers have control of their raw materials and adhere to good manufacturing practices as the principle means of prevention.


References: Pharmacognosy by C. K. KOKATE, A.P. PUROHIT, S.B. GOKHALE 42 ND EDDITION SEPTEMBER 2008 HAND BOOK OF FOOD QUALITY AND AUTHENTICITY BY REKHA S SINGHAL, PUSHPA R KULKARNI, DINANATH V REGE.1997 Quality assurance in spices and spice products MODERN METHODS OF ANALYSIS by J.S. PROHIT, 1998 http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue92/FEAT-HxAdulteration.html http://kish.in/chemical-test-for-various-adulteration-in-food/

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