Monday, July 22, 2024

Haldi Adulteration: The Dark Side of The Golden Spice

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Turmeric or Haldi is a golden spice native to India. Its medicinal benefits and culinary versatility is almost revered in South Asia. The vibrant yellow hue spice derives its name from Sanskrit, meaning “golden-colored.” The spice is essential to almost all South Asian kitchens and beyond. However, behind this miracle spice that works as a cure-all, lurks a sinister reality: Haldi adulteration.

2018 reports show that nearly 70% of Turmeric in the Indian market is adulterated. This number was a sharp rise from the 50% adulteration recorded from random sampling in 2015.

Capitalists and consumerists adulterate this holy spice in a quest to enhance its color and increase profits. The truth is that unscrupulous traders resort to dangerous practices like – dusting turmeric rhizomes with lead chromate, a toxic industrial compound. This alarming practice has had devastating consequences in South Asian nations where turmeric consumption is widespread.

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Haldi Adulteration: Lead Chromate Poisoning

Real or fake yellow in the vibrant colour craze: Rapid detection of lead chromate in turmeric - ScienceDirect

Lead chromate is a bright yellow pigment. It is a potent neurotoxin that can cause severe health problems, especially in children. A direct result of consuming lead chromate-adulterated haldi is lead poisoning. Moreover, the effects of lead poisoning are far-reaching and often irreversible.

Haldi adulteration through lead damages the nervous system and leads to cognitive impairment, behavioral issues, and even death. It also harms the kidneys, heart, and other vital organs.

Thus, for a few pennies more, the traders are adding adulterants that can cause a range of health complications in India and South Asia.

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Economic Impact: A Loss to Many Nations

The economic impact of lead poisoning is equally staggering. Reports show that in 2019 alone, lead poisoning may have reduced productivity by 9% of GDP in South Asia alone. Thus, billions of dollars were lost annually due to health issues directly caused by Haldi adulteration. Additionally, this may have hindered the economic growth and development of South Asian nations.

Countering Adulteration: Bangladesh’s Success Story

6 Simple Methods : How To Check Adulteration in Turmeric Powder? – Rooted Peepul
PC Rooted Peepul

Amidst this grim scenario, Bangladesh has successfully tackled haldi adulteration. From 47% adulteration in 2019, the regulating authorities and PM Sheikh Hasina’s government have brought the adulteration to 0%. Reports show that the level of lead in the blood has reduced to almost 30% in Bangladesh. How did Bangladesh accomplish this?

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  1. Public Awareness Programs: The locals were made aware of the dangers of consuming adulterated haldi and other food items.
  2. Raids and Checks: Surprise raids and thorough checks were made in places of production, storage, and distribution.
  3. Government Support: The PM Hasina government launched schemes to support organic turmeric cultivation in Bangladesh.

Such a planned initiative has significantly reduced the prevalence of lead chromate-adulterated haldi in Bangladesh’s markets. Moreover, the burden of lead poisoning related diseases is also lessened. 

Haldi: A Miraculous Golden Spice Worth Protecting

Bangladesh’s success story provides valuable lessons for all other South Asian countries. Governments must implement strict regulations, enforce quality control measures, and promote the use of organic turmeric. While the Indian government has been combatting adulteration through education and public awareness campaigns, the impact is almost negligible in a country of almost 1.4 billion. However, the authorities are ensuring that traders and consumers both are aware of the dangers of adulterated haldi and encourage them to make informed choices.

However, the primary onus lies in the hands of the industry stakeholders. They must place public health above personal profits. They must adopt responsible practices to ensure that the turmeric they source is free from adulterants.  

Turmeric is a miracle spice that features in Ayurveda and पाकशास्त्र. Additionally, this rich golden spice is a cultural heritage of Bharat. Thus, it deserves to be consumed without the fear of harmful after effects of haldi adulteration. May the government and the stakeholders awaken to the need of the hour regarding the most commonly used spice in India. Let’s pray that the administration adopts comprehensive strategies to ensure that this golden spice’s name is never darkened with the word adulteration.




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