Adulteration can be defined as the intentional addition or subtraction or substitution or abstraction of substances which adversely affect the nature, substance and quality of food products. It can be at the time of harvesting, storage, processing, transportation or distribution.
Adulteration is of two types: intentional and incidental. Sometimes adulteration is caused due to ignorance, negligence or lack of proper facilities.
To check the growing tendency of food adulteration, Government of India had introduced "Prevention of Food Adulteration Act" (PFA) in 1954. This Act is based on international standards, keeping in mind the Indian conditions. This Act came into force on 1 June, 1955. Since then the rules have been amended in 1968, 1973 and 1978-79 to safe-guard the consumer's interests. According to PFA, the following foodstuffs should be deemed to be adulterated:
1. If it is not of the nature, substance, and quality which it ought to be.
2. If it contains cheaper or inferior ingredients incidentally or intentionally.
3. If it has been prepared by a process which alters the nature, substance, or quality of foodstuff.
4. If any constituent has been abstracted partially or wholly from it like abstraction of cream from milk.
5. If it has been prepared, packed or kept under unsanitary conditions.
6. If it is infected with insects, worms, etc.
7. If it is obtained from sick or diseased animal, e.g., milk and meat of diseased animals.
8. If it contains poisonous ingredients which are injurious to health.
9. If the container renders it poisonous or injurious to health.
10. If it contains unpermitted colours or any excessive amount of permitted ones.
11. If it contains prohibited preservatives or an excessive amount of permitted ones.
12. If it does not satisfy the prescribed standards laid down by the authorities even though they do not have adverse effect on health.
If a food product violates one or more of the above said standards, it will be regarded as an adulterated food and the seller will be punished under the law.
An adulterant is defined as any item which has a close resemblance with the original food in terms of shape, size, colour, or composition and may blend indistinguishably with the food and is not very easy to detect.