Think twice before you ‘spice’ up your dishes as spices being sold by your local grocer may be adulterated. Liberal doses of red and black oxide, varnish, paint, glue and other chemicals are being added to low-grade spices to make them attractive before they are packaged, branded and sold by wholesale outlets at Begum Bazaar and other places.
These startling and disturbing details came to light when police started digging deep into the spices adulteration racket being operated from Hussainialam area of Old City. Police came to know that the kingpin of the racket, Rajesh Gupta, had been selling tonnes of spices adulterated with harmful chemicals like red oxide, varnish, glue and wall paint to scores of wholesale merchants, including those operating from wholesale hub Begum Bazaar. Down the supply chain, they then pack these ‘spices’ under various labels, terming them ‘top quality’ ‘nature fresh’ products and sell it to retailers across the state.
“Adulteration of food material with chemicals such as iron oxide, paint and glue may cause cancer as these contain carcinogens. The digestive system gets affected leading to various gastrointestinal disorders,” GHMC food safety officer G Vinod Dayal told TOI.
The Hussainialam police along with the Central Zone team of Task Force had raided two godowns at Chandrikapuram and Golla Khidki, operated by Gupta, 60, of Shajahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, two days ago.
Police seized 80 sacks of adulterated spices, including poppy seeds, black pepper and cumin from the two godowns.
Cops also found several chemicals at the godowns and 20 workers mixing the spices with the chemicals, drying them and re-packing them in sacks.
Police then interrogated Rajesh Gupta and the workers. On interrogation, Gupta confessed that he mixed low-quality semolina (suji) in poppy seeds, applies a select shade of popular paint along with a mix of glue to increase its weight and make the final product visually attractive.
After questioning Gupta, police also caught one Bhajrangi Agarwal, who specialises in selling adulterated cardamom.
With the leads given by Gupta and his workers, police so far found five wholesale merchants of Begum Bazaar, who had been purchasing the adulterated spices, packaging them under various labels with fancy descriptions and selling them to retailers across the state.
Cops were now trying to identify people who were selling the harmful chemicals to the adulterators of spices. They have identified a broker who liaises between adulterators and merchants to know the size and scale of the operations and the markets, where the adulterated spices were being sold.
Deputy commissioner of police (DCP), South Zone, V Satyanarayana said they were conducting a thorough probe into the spices adulteration racket and soon details would be put in public domain to educate citizens about the fraud.