Pulses and besan form a major part of the Indian diet. They are the main sources of protein in case of vegetarian diets. However, they are sometimes adulterated intentionally or unintentionally. Adulterants such as stones and pebbles in pulses may be incidental or intentional adulteration. An intentional adulteration in pulses is mixing kesari dal in arhar since kesari dal looks similar but is much cheaper. Pulses are also sometimes adulterated with colouring matter. Synthetic dyes such as Metanil yellow are used to make pulses look brighter and these dyes are injurious to health.
Besan, the flour of Bengal gram, is a popular ingredient and is used in many culinary dishes in India. Since it has a high price, it is sometimes adulterated with flours of maize, yellow pea, rice, kesari dal, etc. Synthetic colours such as Metanil yellow is added to besan to enhance the colour. Such colours are carcinogenic and may cause stomach disorders. FSSAI has published this document to increase consumer awareness about the safety of pulses/ besan and to serve as a guide to ensure that pulses/besan are not adulterated.
- Consumers must not buy pulses/besan if the odour is unpleasant and the taste bitter of gritty
- Avoid pulses if living or dead insects are visible in the product
- Brightly coloured pulses may be artificially coloured. Check for artificial colours as per the test given below in para IV
- Prefer to buy pulses and besan in packaged form
- Buy Pulses and besan certified under AGMARK
- Check FSSAI license number on the package label
- Always read the manufacturing/packaging date and the best before date when buying pulses and besan
- Look for FSSAI Organic logo (Jaivik Bharat) on pack while buying organic food products
Pulses form a major part of the Indian diet and play an important role in fulfilling the protein requirements of vegetarians. Pulses and besan are often adulterated by colouring with dyes. Also,Whole and Split Pulses may be adulterated with Dhatura seeds, Chakunda beans etc. Pulses may also get contaminated with Ergot, which is a fungus containing poisonous substances. The most dangerous adulteration in pulses is mixing kesari (Lathyrus sativus)
in arhar dal. Sale of Kesari is banned as per provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Regulations. Kesari is a hard crop that grows in the wild and is resistant to drought, also, it is cheaper than other conventional pulses. Sand, marble, chips, stones are some of the other unintentional and intentional adulterants that are found in pulses. Synthetic dyes such as Metanil yellow are used by unscrupulous traders to colour pulses to make them look bright.
Besan, the flour of Bengal gram, (Cicer arietinum Linn) is a popular ingredient used in many Indian dishes. It is high in demand, which is why besan is often adulterated with the flour of kesari, maize, rice or yellow pea (Pisum sativum) by unscrupulous traders.
II Why are Pulses and Besan adulterated
Adulteration is primarily intended for economic gains. Inferior quality pulses are coloured with non-permitted dyes to make them look superior. Many a time pulses are adulterated with pebbles, stones, weed seeds, weevilled grains, etc.
Besan is a popular ingredient used in several dishes but has a comparatively high price. This is the reason that it is adulterated with cheaper flours of kesari, rice, yellow pea, maize, etc. for economic gains.
III Effects of adulterated pulses and their products on our health
Artificially coloured pulses or besan and those adulterated with kesari lead to serious health risks for the consumers. Consumption of adulterated pulses and besan for prolonged periods may result in health hazards like cancer, neurological diseases, ulcer, degeneration of reproductive organs, sterility, stomach troubles, etc.
IV How to detect adulteration in pulses and its products (including besan) at home
Adulteration in pulses and its products can be checked at home by using the following simple test methods
Whole and Split Pulses
Method of detection
Dust, pebble, stone, straw, weed, seeds, damaged grains, insect infestation, weevilled grain, insect and rodent hair and excreta
These may be examined visually to see the presence of any foreign matter, damaged grains, discoloured grains, insect, rodent contamination
Clay, stone, gravel, webs, insects
Visual examination will enable detection of these adulterants
Ergot (a fungus containing poisonous substance)
Put some grains in a glass tumbler containing 20 percent salt solution. Ergot floats on the surface while sound grains will settle at the bottom
Dhatura seeds are flat with edges that have a blackish brown colour. These can be removed on close examination
Take a small quantity of pulses in a transparent glass plate. Examine the impurities visually and separate the beans from the rest after close examination
Hidden insect infestation
Take a filter paper impregnated with Ninhydrin (1% in alcohol). Put some grains on it and then fold the filter paper and crush the grains with a hammer. Spots of bluish or purple colour will indicate the presence of hidden insect infestation.
i) Kesari dal has an edged type appearance, showing a slant on one side and is squarish in appearance in contrast to other dals.
ii) Add 50ml of dilute Hydrochloric Acid to the sample and keep in simmering water for about 15 minutes. Development of pink colour indicates the presence of Kesari dal
Note: this test is only for kesari dal (Metanil yellow, if present, will give a similar colour immediately even without simmering)
Colour in Pulses
i.) Metanil yellow
Take a five grams sample with 5 ml water in a test tube and add a few drops of concentrated Hydrochloric Acid. A pink colour shows the presence of Metanil yellow
ii.) lead Chromate
Shake 5gm of pulses with 5ml water and add a few drops of HCL. Pink colour indicates Lead Chromate
Ii,) Synthetic Colours
Take a transparent glass of water. Add two teaspoons of pulses and mix thoroughly. Pure pulses will not leave any colour. Adulterated pulses leave colour immediately in water.
Method of detection
Take ½ teaspoon of the besan in a test tube. Pour 3ml of alcohol in the test tube. Mix up the contents thoroughly by shaking the test tube. Add 10 drops of Hydrochloric acid in it. A pink colour will indicate the presence of Metanil yellow in the besan
Add 50 ml of dilute Hydrochloric Acid to 10 gm of sample and simmer in water for 15 minutes. Development of pink colour indicates the presence of Kesari flour.
Adulteration in pulses and its products including besan can be checked at home by using the simple test methods listed in Detect Adulteration with Rapid Test (DART) booklet which has been prepared by FSSAI. This booklet is a compilation of common quick tests for detection of food adulterants at household level by citizens themselves. It can be downloaded free from the FSSAI website (http://www.fssai.gov.in/home/capacity-building/FSSAI-Books.html)
V. Provisions under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006
Standards of pulses are notified in the sub-regulation 126.96.36.199 of the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011. These standards apply to whole, shelled (de-husked) and split variants of 12 types of pulses, namely: lentil (masur) Black gram (urd) green gram (moong) Bengal gram (chana or chick pea or Kabuli chana or Chole or (green chick pea), hara chana, Red gram (arhar) Horse gram (kulthi) Field bean (Black, Brown, White), Peas dry (matra) Soybean, Rajmah or Double beans or Broad beans or Black beans, Lobia or black-eyed beans or black eyed white lobia, Moth bean (matki). Limit of moisture, extraneous matter, defects, uric acid, etc. are important parameters in standards.
Standards of Besan is prescribed under sub-regulation 2.4.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011. The sub-regulation
“2.2.1: restriction of use of certain ingredient relating to Kesari dal” of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations, 2011 prohibits sale of Kesari dal (lathyrus sativus) and its products.
VI. How to report sale of adulterated Pulses and Besan
- Consumers should inform the Food Safety Department about any illegal sale of adulterated foodstuff in their area. Anyone can report the problem relating to safety of the food to the concerned State Food Safety Commissioners. Contact details of the Food Safety Commissioners are available on the FSSAI website www.fssai.gov.in
- Consumers can also share their concerns through the Food Safety Connect portal (https://foodlicensing.fssai.gov.in/cmsweb/) or may register their complaint on the FSSAI App available at the Google Play store.
- Consumers can also visit (http://foodsmart.fssai.gov.in/home.html) to become aware of the food safety labelling provisions.