- A Study of the Devastating Impact of the British Rule on Agriculture, Farming and Lifestyle of the People of India
- A comparative study of Indian and Western agricultural system and the impact of Green Revolution
- The Perils of the Genetically Modified Food
- The Present Situation – Various Practices Adopted in Processing and Dealing with Food at various stages
- Some Issues of Critical Importance
Various Practices Adopted in Processing and Dealing with Food at various stages
a) Food grains and other crops: In food crops there are various stages at which
chemicals are spread or sprayed in the fields. First, chemical fertilizers are spread at the time of sowing seeds, and then during the maturing of crops on an average 2-5 times chemicals, pesticides and herbicides are sprayed. By the time a crop is harvested it has already gone through various rounds of treatment with chemicals. Laboratory reports have shown how the toxic content found in grains in various case studies are multiple number of times that permitted by the food associations. Even in the storage of these grains after harvesting, various poisonous chemicals are used to prevent attacks by various pests or funguses etc.
b) Vegetables: Vegetables have to undergo a higher dosage of chemicals than food grains by the very fact that vegetables need much more intensive care compared to the grain crops. The rounds of chemicals start even before the plantation of vegetables. First of all, the hybrid seeds used are already coated and treated with lethal poisonous chemicals. Once the seeds germinate, the further rounds of dosages of chemicals start. At a regular interval of about 20-25 days pesticides in various forms are used. The ones in liquid form are either sprayed or diluted with the irrigation, and the ones available in powder or granular form are spread and mixed with the soil. Even further, to enhance the growth of the plant there are various stimulants, various hormonal injectables that are very much in fashion. Then there are other chemicals used to obtain certain specific results, such as adding sweetness, adding more colour, or to increase the size, or for various other effects.
c) Fruits: The story of fruit production is even more horrible. The journey of commercially grown fruit plants generally starts in a plant nursery where the soil filled in poly-bags to propagate the fruit seeds or cuttings is already treated with chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Then at regular intervals of 20-25 days chemicals are either sprayed or diluted with water at the time of irrigation. There is not a single day in the nursery when a plant is free from the toxic effect of these chemicals. Once ready, pits are prepared for the plantation of these plants and chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as prescribed by the experts, are mixed with the soil. Throughout its life span or as long as the tree bears fruits it has to undergo chemical spraying at different times of a year. Like vegetables, there are certain hormonal sprays to obtain some desired results. Not only this, the fruits are picked much before they are ripe or mature as they have to cover long distances to reach the market. Once they reach the market they again have to go through a round of chemicals for instant ripening. In many instances extra colorants etc. are used to make the fruits appear fresh, bright, unnaturally sweet and enticing. All these are regarded as standard practices in the industry and there are formulas available engineered for specific results.
d) Milk: As we have already elaborated the practices in crops, vegetables and fruits, all the biomass generated eventually reaches the animals reared for milk. Even when there are fodder crops or certain grasses grown specifically for the milking animals, still the practices of spraying are the same as in food crops. Animals are injected with hormones either daily or often, the frequency varying from place to place and according to the ascertained need of the animal to meet certain ends, like increase in the volume of milk, to keep animals in control, and various other practices that are standard in this industry. The details are readily available in various books on the subject or on the internet. The problem becomes still more serious when it is no more milk but just a mixture of few chemicals and some other material, which is called the synthetic milk. Here is an excerpt from a blog posted at http://www.jaisiyaram.com by Swami Balendu regarding synthetic milk. “…producing milk synthetically is much cheaper than raising a milk cow, feeding it properly and milking it daily. Synthetic milk only costs four to five Rupees per litre. They produce this milk by mixing urea, caustic soda, cheap cooking oil, detergents, water and a tiny bit of natural milk. It has the colour, the structure and even the fat levels of natural milk. It passes the basic tests for fat in milk and is thus openly sold in the market. It may look and taste like milk but the effect on your body can be disastrous. Synthetic milk can cause loss of sight and hearing and is even said to cause cancer. It is obviously even more dangerous for children and old people.
“According to the Delhi health department estimates, 100,000 litres of synthetic milk and 30 tonnes of thickened milk (khoya) is being manufactured everyday in the city.”
Here they speak only of synthetic milk which is produced by chemical-mixing factories instead of milk cows. But not even all the milk coming from cows is really healthy for you! If you don’t know where your milk comes from, it may well be that it contains the hormone oxytocin. Dairy farms use injections of this hormone to increase the milk production! In Uttar Pradesh, the police have recently raided various dairy farms and seized about 13000 hormone injections! Obviously they are now getting more and more strict, search more for such misuse and punish it but it has spread everywhere and is not that easy to stop.
It is also not only the milk that is adulterated. It is all milk products like Paneer, yoghurt, ghee and many more which are not really made of milk anymore.”
A January 2011 survey report by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) from different cities in 33 States revealed that out of total 1,791 random samples taken 1,226 samples were found not fit for human consumption.
It means on national level 68.4 percent of milk samples were found adulterated. In states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, 88 percent of milk samples were found adulterated.
Furthermore, according to another news feed, the link of which is http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/up-seizes-deadly-cocktail-peddled-in-delhi-as-milk/1/109927.html, “There are an estimated 3.5 lakh unregistered dairies in the Capital. …The illegal milk suppliers have also taken to using fake packages of well-known brands of dairy products. This was discovered during the weekend raids. Where monitoring is not up to the mark, this becomes dangerous for the consumers. There are indications that the quantity of adulterated milk coming into Delhi could be rising. The raids over the weekend came after nearly 50,000 litres of adulterated milk were seized from over a dozen districts of UP last month. Sources said that over 22,000 litres of adulterated milk was being brought into the Capital from western Uttar Pradesh alone. Similarly shocking figures for adulterated milk supply to Delhi are provided by officials even though an estimate of the overall quantity of synthetic milk being consumed in Delhi is hard to come by.”
e) Processed Foods: Once the raw material has been produced in the farms or more aptly say, food factories, then it either directly reaches the consumers or goes to another phase of processing where the raw produce is used to make other consumables. It then depends on the nature of the product which determines what kind of and how much more contamination, adulteration or chemical treatment it has to undergo. A separate section dedicated to practices of contamination, adulteration or chemical treatment at various stages of processing food items is given below. Anyhow, to sum up, the whole effort is to somehow make more money without any consideration for its lethal consequences to human health, ecology, environment etc. We have already elaborated the working of the utilitarian spirit at great length in a different section and explained how there is no limit to its corrosive effect unless checked by some higher ideals or deeper values. This holds true in this field also.
Environmental contaminants: Environmental contaminants are chemicals that are present in the environment in which the food is grown, harvested, transported, stored, packaged, processed and consumed. Already the pollution level of urban areas has gone alarmingly high so much so that any food items grown or processed in such an atmosphere automatically get contaminated. When these toxins present in the atmosphere are captured by the moisture present in the air and brought down in the ground by rains, they are absorbed by the fields as well as the crops.
Banned pesticides, carcinogens: There are many cases of banned pesticides or carcinogens found in food. Greenpeace exposed in 2006 in China that 25% of surveyed supermarkets agricultural products contained banned pesticides. Over 70% of tomatoes that tested were found to have the banned pesticide “Lindane,” and almost 40% of the samples had a mix of three or more types of pesticides. Fruits were also tested in this investigation. Tangerines, strawberries and kyofung grapes samples were found contaminated by the presence of pesticides, including the highly toxic Methamidophos. These fruits can also be found in the Hong-Kong market. Greenpeace says there exists no comprehensive monitoring on fruit produce in Hong-Kong as of 2006.
In India, soft drinks were found with high levels of pesticides and insecticides including lindane, DDT and others. According to the recent study, 90% of our daily intake is adulterated with no succour in sight. From excreta in our spices and toxic shampoo in our milk to cow fat in our desi ghee, banned chemical injects in our fruits and colour substances in our vegetables – the carcinogens content is as high as 12% which, according to some estimate, may result into a 40% chance of acquired cancer, 5% risk of nervous disorders and 17% chance of brain cysts which are accompanied by epilepsy attacks, blackouts and even death, the last being the direct fallout of wrongly fertilized cabbage.
Details of Adulteration in Various Foods and Food Ingredients
Turmeric which is the basic ingredient of cooking, is adulterated with lead chromate,(which adds colour as well as weight to it, being heavier), 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 hazards and may cause irreparable damage to our system when eaten at regular intervals over a long period of time. Take for instance the lead chromate, it is one of the most toxic salts of lead. It can cause anemia, paralyses, mental retardation and brain damage in children and abortion in pregnant women. Metanil yellow dye which is another non-permissible toxic colorant is used mostly to colour besan, pulses, miscellaneous prepared foods namely, sweetmeats like ladoo, burfi, jalebi, papad etc. and give them an attractive deep yellow color.
Spices: In the case of spices like coriander powder or chilli powder – sawdust, rice bran and sand and even horse-dung and cow-dung are added to the spices.
Flour, Grams, Tea, Coffee, etc.: Sand, dirt, earth, gritty matter, soap stone, common salt are added to flour, refined flour (maida), besan, spices, sugar, tea-dust and coffee. And washing soda is added to table salt. In tea-dust one can even find iron fillings. The silver leaves which are used to decorate sweatmeats , burfi and pan, most of the time they are not the silver leaves but aluminum leaves or foil, which is again very bad for health, causing a lot of physical complications.
Dried seeds of volatile oil are added to cloves, while mineral acids to vinegar, papaya seeds to black pepper. Aniseed or “sauf” the after food tit-bit is dyed with Malachite green dye for that nice green color. In food grains and whole spices, extraneous matter like stalks, stems and foreign seeds are added.
Bajra, chana, barley are adulterated with weed seeds, damaged grain, rodent hair and excreta, and ergot (a fungus containing poisonous substance). There are many other food items which are adulterated by many things which are hazardous to health.
According to the study, castor oil which is often mixed in ground nut oil can cause abortion in case of pregnant women. Khesari Dal which is often mixed in Arhar Dal can cause lower limb paralyses. Ghee and butter is adulterated with vanaspati, mashed potato, sweet potato and animal fats such pig’s fat. In order to improve the flavor of adulterated ghee, tributyrin is added.
Argemone seeds that grow as weeds in the mustard fields are mixed with mustard oil that may lead to serious health hazards and even death. Dropsy is a common after effect of consumption of this oil. The other likely ill effects of this may be swelling, irregular fever, low pulse rate, enlargement of the liver, respiratory distress which may lead to heart failure. Adulteration of oil has become rampant, with a wide variety of oils available in the market; the consumer is not sure what combination of oils he gets when he buys it loose from the market. It is very harmful and hazardous to health when mixed with crude castor oil, industrial palmolein-oil and mineral oil etc.
The Truth about refined cooking oil: Here is a blog (http://blog.sejalvora.com/2010/10/25/the-truth-about-refined-cooking-oil/) on the internet that gives us some information on the subject. “Approximately over 100 million tons of edible oils are being consumed annually in India.
The presence of toxins even in small quantities may have profound effect on the health and well-being of the common masses.
Most people believe that refined oils are healthy for us, as they claim to reduce cholesterol. Below is a detailed process of how cooking oil is refined for you to decide if you still think it is healthy for you.
Refining: Oil refining is a process where crude oils; i.e. natural oils from vegetables are refined to remove any substances that may contribute to off flavor, off odor, undesirable color, or for keeping standardization, and standardization is required because if 100 million tons are being sold, there would be chaos at the supermarket if every bottle would be different in color and clarity as it is naturally supposed to be.
Step 1: “Washing” of oil using water, salts and acids in order to remove waxes, phosphates and other impurities.
Step 2: Oil undergoes a neutralization process. Alkali which is soap mixed with oil and heated to 180F. A separator then removes the soap from the oil.
Step 3: The oil is subjected to “physical” refinement to remove odor compounds by vacuum steam distillation process.
Step 4: Next the oil is subjected to cooling. By doing this, some fats will crystallize and are removed using filtration.
Step 5: The oil is then bleached. This process stabilized the oil. Bleaching involves using clay to remove color and impurities from the oil. Oil is bleached by heating it to 130F, and mixing with clay. The mixture is held for several minutes and then the hot oil is filtered from the clay and cooled.
Step 6: Hydrogenation process is completed by pumping pressurized hydrogen into an agitated tank filled with oil. This must be done in the presence of a catalyst metal, such as nickel. Hydrogenation is done at 204C and pressure of 60psig.
Do we want to be eating the end result of this rigorous procedure? It has already been the cause of much illness, continuing to eat this is to ask for irreversible damage to health.”
Tea and sugar: Both tea and sugarcane plantations are treated with alarmingly high dosage of pesticides, herbicides and various other chemicals available for different purposes. Once these are harvested, both these items have to go through a rigorous processing where the tea receives artificial dyes for color, various other chemicals to obtain certain results, and the sugar too has to go through various rounds of chemical processing. White refined sugar has become so dangerous that it is even called White Poison. All these poisonous substances end up in our body in a concentrated decoction when we consume tea, or things made out of sugar.
Bananas: They are piled high in the hold, are offloaded into the numerous warehouses that line the streets. As the sky lightens up, the cargo is more visible. They are a deep green in colour and bitter to the taste. But by that same afternoon, miraculously, these bananas become deep yellow and sweet. As the trucks pull away, an army of workers, spray-cans on their shoulders, enter the warehouses and start spraying the fruits stacked on the floor. It is a chemical that helps the banana ripen better and get a nice yellow colour.
Scores of banana wholesalers are using this same technique to transform cheaply bought unripe banana into a golden fruit, going on to supply it to an ever-growing appetite for sweeter, riper and bigger. The chemical used is calcium carbide hazardous to the human body because it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorous. Once dissolved in water, the carbide produces acetylene gas. Acetylene gas is an analogue of the natural ripening agents produced by fruits known as ethylene.
Acetylene imitates the ethylene and quickens the ripening process. In some cases it is only the skin that changes colour, while the fruit itself remains raw. When the carbide is used on very raw fruit, the amount of the chemical needed to ripen the fruit has to be increased. This results in the fruit becoming even more tasteless, and toxic.
Rice: The chemical fertilizer urea is used in our rice to make it whiter and makes humans prone to nerve disorders. The rice plant is kept dipped in pesticide dissolved water.
Fish and Canned seafood: Fish is stored in formaldehyde (used to preserved dead-bodies) to keep them fresh-looking. Tinned food has high susceptibility to contamination and may lead to severe gastro-intestinal disorders.
Street food: Recent studies have found Escherichia coli (E-coli), salmonella and shigella bacteria in restaurant and street food in the city. Bacteria are very common in restaurant foods. But the more alarming thing is that restaurant owners do not throw out the leftover oil from everyday cooking, using it the next day. As a result the peroxide value of the oil increases and it becomes highly toxic.
Chilli: Most of the red chilli powder used in the market is adulterated — in most cases the spices are mixed with brick dust. Fine sawdust is also often mixed with cumin and other ground spices.
Honey: Is also adulterated as lab tests have found sugar syrup is often mixed with honey to enhance the sweetness. CSE laboratory tests find high levels of antibiotics in well-known brands of honey sold in the market. According to a website www.naturalnews.com, “It’s a troubling and little-known fact. Today’s beekeepers use herbicides, fungicides and insecticides in and around beehives. They say they have no choice. Honeybees increasingly suffer from disease and parasites, forcing their keepers to fight back with powerful chemicals. But modern beekeeping practices put severe stress on honeybees, possibly causing this weakened resistance to diseases and parasites in the first place. These practices include unnatural feed, migratory beekeeping, artificial insemination, and chemical treatments.
The only natural foods for honeybees come from the nectars and pollens they collect. These foods contain vital nutrients that optimize the health of these tiny insects. Bees carefully vary their own diets, flying farther to find different blooms if large amounts of nectar have been gathered from one type of plant. But today’s beekeepers commonly feed their honeybees artificial syrups and patties made out of high fructose corn syrup (HFC). Unlike the range of fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals found in pollen and nectar HFC is devoid of any real nutrition.
Worse, about 85 percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. Let’s remember what that means. Crops are genetically modified, in part, to resist insects yet beekeepers are feeding that crop right back to insects. There’s no way of determining how honeybees will react to being fed genetically modified corn products generation after generation. In addition, bees also forage for pollen and nectar on GM crops, adding to their exposure.”
Silver covering (Varakh) on Sweets: “Beauty Without Cruelty”, a Pune-based NGO that investigates into product ingredients, has produced a remarkable booklet on the varakh industry. Here is their report on how it is made.
The varakh-makers select animals at the slaughterhouse. Each animal is felt for the softness of its skin before it is killed. This means that a substantial number of goat, sheep and cattle are killed specifically for the industry. Their skins are soaked in filthy, infested vats for 12 days to dehair them.
Then, workers peel away the epidermal layer, which they call jhilli, just under the top layer of the skin in a single piece. These layers are soaked for 30 minutes in another decoction to soften them and left to dry on wooden boards. Once these are dry, the workers cut out square pieces 19 cm by 15 cm. These pieces are made into pouches called auzaar and stacked into booklets. Each booklet has a cover of thick lamb suede called khol. Thin strips of silver called alagaa are placed inside the pouches.
Workers now hit the booklet with wooden mallets for three hours to beat the silver inside into the ultra-thin varakh of a thickness less than one micron called ‘999’. This varakh is then sent to sweet shops.
Here are the statistics that you should know. An animal’s skin can make 20-25 pieces/pouches only. Each booklet has 360 pouches. One booklet is used to make 30,000 varakh pieces – less than the daily supply of a single big mithai shop.
About 12,500 animals are killed for one kg of varakh. Every year, 30,000 kg of varakh (30 tonnes) are eaten on mithai. 2.5 crore booklets are made by varakh companies that keep their slaughterhouse connection secret. But the truth is that not only is this industry killing animals furiously, much of the animal tissue that the booklet is made of remains in the varakh.
Butter oil: Pure butter oil and ghee are very rare in the market. Traders use animal fat, palm oil, potato mash and vegetable oil to produce fake butter oil. They even mix soap ingredients like steirian oil with ghee, to increase the proportions, says a study conducted by Swastha Organic Foods. Also, chemicals are added to create artificial ghee odour or flavor.
Fruits: Laboratory tests reveal that fruits are ripened artificially using calcium carbide. Traces of organo-phosphorus – an insecticide – has been discovered in vegetables. The nutritional elements in fruits and vegetables, when adulterated with dyes and synthetic colours, are destroyed. Eventually the consumption of those poisonous fruits or vegetables may cause diarrhea, dysentery and even death. Water melon is injected with colour and saccharine which is used as sweetening tablets. There are edible colours like kesar which are extracted from sweetened fruits.
Oil: In mustard oil, the highly toxic and poisonous dhatura is mixed. It causes poisoning, swelling of the body, muscle weakening and sudden Vitamin B1 and B6 deficiencies.
Pulses and spices are adulterated with chalk, stones and crushed sand. These toxins injure the intestine and cause stomach and food-pipe erosions.
Non-veg: Much of the problem lies with non-vegetarian dishes as well. Animals are genetically manipulated by giving radiation to increase their size. This can be potentially carsenogenic. Hens are injected with steroid so that they can produce more eggs. Uncooked pork causes tapeworm which enters the blood and causes intestinal and muscle problems and neurocysticercosis, enters gastroenteritis which causes Epilepsy, convulsion.
Soft drinks: A bulk of the soft drink industry uses tartrazine (E102) in their products. Chief Clinical Nutritionist Rupali Dutta says: “The adverse reactions come up most commonly in subjects sensitive to acetyisalicylic acid (ASA). The reactions include asthma, urticaria and rhinitis.”
Some Other chemicals and their ill-effects on the human body
Benzoates (E210-E219), used mainly in marinated fish, fruit-based fillings, jam, salad creams, soft drinks and beer, provoke urticaria, angioedema and asthma. They are directly linked with childhood hyperactivity.
Sulphites (E220-E227), used mainly in dried fruits, fruit juices and syrups, fruit-bases, dairy deserts, biscuit doughs, cider, beer and wine often end up in pruitus, urticaria, angioedema and asthma.
Nitrates and nitrites (E249-E252), used in bacon, ham, cured meats, corned beef and some cheeses, have been found to cause headaches in susceptible individuals. In addition, these chemicals are also cancerous.
Butylated hydrozyanisole – BHA (E320), used in soup mixes and cheese spreads, makes you vulnerable to urticaira, angioedema and asthma.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer, used in savory foods, snacks, soups, sauces and meat products, leads to a conjunction of symptoms such as severe chest and/or facial pressure and overall burning sensation, not unlike a feeling that the victim is experiencing a heart attack. MSG has been found to precipitate a severe headache and/or asthma. In susceptible children, MSG has been linked with epilepsy type shudder attacks.
Says Maya Goburdhan, director of Organic foods NGO Navdanya: “Food contamination starts at the farmer level itself. With more and more pesticides and insecticides being used, microorganisms in the soil that add natural fertility die and the soil loses its ability to rejuvenate itself. Therefore, more pesticides are needed, further depleting the natural fertility of the soil. To say then that the soil is not fertile enough and, therefore, more fertilizers are needed is wrong.”
The next level of contamination is added at the industrial level. In these modern times when there is so much competition, there is stress on making everything look attractive. In the process, there’s more contamination and more adulteration. “In an artificially made strawberry drink concentrate as many as 50 to 70 chemicals are added. It is then sold under the guise of artificial flavors,” said Maya.
Note: This is in addition to various chemicals and processing added regularly which not only destroys the nutritional value of the food item but makes it very toxic and harmful to human health.
Extent of Adulteration
A recent comparative analysis study report of the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) published in the 11th January, 2012 issue of The Times of India, says: “Adulteration rates are as high as 40% in Chhattisgarh, 34% in Uttarakhand, 29% in Uttar Pradesh, 23% in Rajasthan and 20% in West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh. Besides, nearly 17% of the food samples tested in Bihar and Chandigarh, 16% in Nagaland, 15% in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, 14% in Haryana, 12% in Tamil Nadu and 10% in Maharashtra were adulterated.
In 2010, FSSAI picked up over 1.17 lakh samples of food articles and tested them. Around 13% of the samples overall were found to be adulterated. Interestingly, adulteration rates in Delhi was low – 4% while in Karnataka it was just 5%.
A comparative analysis of food adulteration rates over the last three years has shown a steady increase. In 2008, 94,000 samples were examined of which over 8,300 were found to be adulterated (8.79%). In 2009, 1.13 lakh samples were examined of which 11.14% were adulterated. In 2010, 1.17 lakh samples were examined of which over 14,000 samples (12.65%) were adulterated.”
Here, one should be well aware of the fact that the actual figures may be much higher than the ones published because firstly, a survey can only inspect a limited number of items and it is impossible to inspect each and every food item produced and available at the market. Secondly, considering the present level of corruption that has permeated to all the levels of individual and collective life, it is somewhat difficult to carry out any objective survey on any larger level and the bigger players always tend to somehow save themselves from such scrutiny by various corrupt methods. But, still it is very clear that the trend of adulterating food items is growing day by day and is becoming more and more lethal. Even if a product is not adulterated with any foreign element, still if the ingredients themselves are contaminated, or derived from chemically treated crops, or genetically modified methods, the finished product cannot be deemed fit for safe human consumption. We have already elaborated at great length the present farming practices and handling of food at various stages, so in such a scenario, to expect to find a product free from any undesirable additive is most unlikely.