Food adulteration is the process in which the quality of food is lowered either by the addition of inferior quality material or by extraction of valuable ingredient. It not only includes the intentional addition or substitution of the substances but biological and chemical contamination during the period of growth, storage, processing, transport and distribution of the food products, is also responsible for the lowering or degradation of the quality of food products. Adulterants are those substances which are used for making the food products unsafe for human consumption.
Under the previous food laws any food product with lowered or degraded quality used to be defined as Adulterated Food but under the new laws (FSS Act, 2006), the word adulterated food has been termed as Substandard Food, Unsafe Food or Food containing the extraneous matter.
Food products are said to be adulterated if their quality is adversely affected by adding of any substance which is injurious to health or by abstracting a nutritious substance.
A food item is said to be adulterated if:
- A substance which is added is injurious for human consumption.
- An inferior substance substitutes wholly or partly.
- A valuable ingredient has been abstracted from the food product, wholly or in part.
Various types of adulterants found in the food products are as follows:
- Intentional adulterants; like coloring agents, starch, Pepperoil, injectable dyes and others.
- Incidental adulterants; like pesticide residues, larvae in foods, droppings of rodents.
- Metallic contaminants; like lead, arsenic, effluent from chemical industries etc.
According to the provisions of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, if any person imports or manufactures for sale, or stores or distribute any adulterant, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, shall be liable
- For a penalty up to Rupees two lakhs, if the adulterant is not injurious to health.
- For a penalty up to Rupees ten lakhs, if the adulterant is injurious to health.
Further it is provided that, in a proceeding under the provisions of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, it is not a defense that the accused was in possession of an adulterant on behalf of any other person.