Desi Ghee adulteration problem and home tests to detect it

Adulteration of edible items is a distinct possibility. Even with all the set of rules and regulations for the food processing industry and strict penalties for adulteration, it has not gone away. Profiteering is the most common motivation for adulteration. 

Adulterated items diminish or remove the benefits of pure items and can even cause harm to the consumers. 

In India, Agmark and Indian Standard are the two main quality standards which define the right levels of components of an agricultural or consumable product. These levels are defined on the basis of their importance and safety for human usage.

The organised sector is strictly regulated but it is the unorganised (unless prepared at home) sector where adulteration is mostly rampart. Therefore, the consumers have to remain aware of buying only those products which meet the quality standards. 


What can pure ghee be adulterated with?

Desi ghee has been used since the Vedic times in India. Its properties and benefits are well known to the people. It is one of the most widely used things in our traditional kitchen for cooking and frying. It has many health benefits. Besides being prepared in homes, it is also produced by the organised and the unorganised sector. 

Desi ghee is most commonly adulterated with coconut oil, various vegetable oils, rancid ghee, animal fats and starch.

Pure desi ghee bought from market is expensive. Some racketeers adulterate it to generating more profit. The adulteration is mostly prevalent in the unorganised sector which is largely not regulated. 


How to check ghee adulteration at home?

We can perform simple checks at homes to find the adulteration…

1/5. Ghee adulteration – General

One of the simplest methods of checking whether ghee is adulterated with any other ingredient at home is by simply heating it. If it melts immediately and turns dark brown, it is pure. Otherwise, if it takes long to melt or turns light yellow, it is adulterated.

2/5. Ghee adulterated with starch

Iodine solution can be used in order to detect starch like mashed potato, sweet potato etc. You just have to add a few drops of iodine solution to the melted ghee and notice change in colour. If colour of iodine changes to purple from brown, then it indicates presence of starch.

3/5. Ghee adulterated with coconut oil

To find whether ghee is mixed with coconut oil, you just have to take a glass tumbler to refrigerate the melted ghee in it. On refrigeration, if you find two separate layers of solified material then the ghee is adulterated with coconut oil.

4/5. Ghee adulterated with rancid ghee or vanasapati

In order to detect whether there is old and spoilt ghee having high rancidity is present in the ghee, you have to melt one tablespoon of ghee and then put 5ml HCl in it. It is best to take both these in the test tube. You also have to add some sugar and mix all of these. 

If you find red colouration at the bottom of ghee, this indicates that rancid ghee was mixed and it was adulterated. 

5/5. Ghee adulterated with animal fat like tallow

It is not possible to check this adulteration at home. Therefore, lab tests are recommended for it.


Laboratory tests for checking purity of Desi Ghee

While home tests give you good indication of adulteration in ghee, laboratory testing uses clearly defined procedure to detect the same with a far greater level of certainty and accuracy. We only mention the name of these tests and their purpose here without giving details.

1/2. Traditional tests…
  1. Furfural Test- this test detects contamination of ghee with sesame oil.
  2. Baudouin Test- this test detects contamination of ghee with vanaspati hydrogenated fat, refined vegetable oil and animal fat.

These traditional methods are kit-based and depend on colour-changes and indicators to know outcomes.

2/2. Latest new test from FSSAI

On direction of FSSAI, in order to check adulteration of ghee with four specific oils-soyabean oil, groundnut oil, coconut oil and sunflower oil, this new method is to be used. 

The method is based on detection of cholesterol and ß-sitosterol in unsaponifiable matter of ghee.


Also read…

[1] Desi Ghee – Properties, Benefits and Usage

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