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Adulteration of Spices

A key step in the prevention of adulteration is to understand why it occurs.

The most obvious and simplest reason is to increase profit. A manufacturer may use a cheap filler that is easily disguised to increase the volume sold by cutting the cost of pure spice, and thereby increase the ultimate profit margin.

The second reason is to be able to compete. If the manufacturer cannot meet the quality criteria of a customer he may adulterate the product either in an attempt to meet a specification or to compete by offering an admittedly inferior product at a lower price.

For example, capsicums may be adulterated to meet a colour specification set by the customer or to allow the manufacturer to offer a lower priced product that allows him to compete.

In other cases, the adulterated product may be more visually appealing than the pure spice.


  1. Cayenne Powder – Red oxide of lead, and dangerous colouring
  2. Cumin Powder – Peanuts, almond shells
  3. Turmeric – Artificial colouring, corn flour (starch), lead chromite (used in paint), or melanil yellow.
  4. Capsicums – Sudan red & related dues, tomato skin lycopene.
  5. Oregano – Foreign leaves, ie: sumac, savoury, thyme, marjoram, laurel.
  6. Black Pepper Ground – Buckwheat, millet seed, papaya seed, pin heads.
  7. White Pepper Ground – Buckwheat, millet seeds.
  8. Cinnamon – Coffee husks,
  9. Nutmeg – Coffee husks
  10. Paprika – Ground annatto seeds

You can rest assure that all of Malabar spices are PURE and are QC’d each and every time we get product in from our supplier to ensure no adulteration’s have been made to the product.

Quality is our Top Priority!!


To the best of our knowledge, this information is accurate and reliable but is offered solely for consideration and assistance without any warranty or guarantee.
Food product Adulterant Test to check adulteration
Whole spices Dust, pebble, straw, weed seeds, damaged grain, insects, rodent excreta, hair, etc. Visual examination can help you distinguish between pure and impure form.
Black pepper Papaya seeds On visual examination you will find that papaya seeds are shrunken and oval in shape. They are greenish or brownish black in colour.
Cloves Exhausted cloves (All the oil is extracted from them.) The small size and shrunken appearance of cloves make them easy to distinguish. Also, the smell is less pungent as compared to true cloves.
Mustard seeds Argemone seed On close observation they are easy to separate as, mustard seeds have a smooth appearance, whereas argemone seeds have a grainy and rough surface and are black in colour. You can also press the mustard seed. Genuine mustard seeds have a yellow core, whereas argemone seeds have a white core.
Powdered spices Added starch (Not applicable to turmeric.) Add a drop of iodine solution (easily available in medical stores or the one from your first-aid box). Formation of blue colour indicates adulteration.
Table salt Tasting the spice will help you distinguish between adulterated and pure spices.
Turmeric powder Metanil yellow Take 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder in a test tube, add 3 ml alcohol to it and shake vigorously. Add 10 drops of hydrochloric acid to it. Appearance of pink colour indicates presence of this chemical.
Chalk powder or yellow soap stone powder Add some dilute hydrochloric acid, if it effervesces; chalk powder or yellow soap stone powder is present.
Turmeric whole Lead chromate      (Gives a bright appearance to the spice) Add a piece of whole turmeric to water. If the water turns yellow, it indicates adulteration with lead chromate.
Chili powder Brick powder, salt powder or talc powder Add a tsp of chili powder to a glass of water. If it is artificially coloured, the water will change its colour.
Rub some chili powder at the bottom of a glass. If any grittiness is felt, it indicates the presence of brick powder/sand.
Artificial colours Sprinkle some chili powder on a glass of water. Artificial colours will leave a coloured streak.
Cinnamon Cassia bark Cinnamon bark is very thin and can be easily rolled around a pencil or a pen and also have a distinct smell. Cassia barks are tougher and thick.
Cumin seeds Grass seeds coloured with charcoal dust Rub the cumin seeds on your palms. Colouration of your palms indicate adulteration.
Saffron Dried tendrils of maize cob (Artificial saffron is prepared by drying tendrils of maize cob and colouring them with food colour) Try breaking a saffron strand. Genuine saffron does not break on pressing but artificial saffron easily crumbles under pressure. Also, try dissolving saffron in water, pure saffron will keep on giving colour until it completely dissolves.