debased or mixed with impurities; to corrupt, debase, deteriorate, give hybrid character to, or to make impure by adding a foreign substance or by replacing valuable ingredients with inferior ones.
In news articles, you can find the term adulterate describing food, nutritional supplements, and services. Today, due to the sophisticated legal systems around the world and the elevated control, the term suggests fraudulent business activities. Manufacturers find legal methods to adulterate foods and beverages in refined ways to increase their quality parameters.
For example, Formalin and Hydrogen Peroxide both increase products' shelf life, and you've most likely come across allergen warnings while reading labels. It's a well-known fact that companies add these allergens to decrease production costs. For example, soy milk's production cost is 70% less than the production cost for cow milk.
Some of the reasons behind businesses abiding by the practice of adulterating include- the gap between the demand and supply, the perishable nature of products, low purchasing consumer power, and the failure of health departments to exercise control. The situation is significantly worse in developing countries because of the absence of ample monitoring and appropriate law enforcement.
Real-World Example of Adulterate
The Food Contamination Journal published a study from Macquarie University analyzing a hundred samples of honey from nineteen countries to see if they adulterated. The study examined five raw honey samples and ninety-five commercial samples. The results showed that more than a quarter of retail honey brands had laced their products with sugar cane, corn syrup, or other products.
Honey can be adulterated either during or after production. Unintentional adulteration might happen through overfeeding of sucrose to bees during periods when food sources are limited. This practice, if done occasionally, can protect colonies, but it can also filter through to the finished product.
Tests on honey include a vast range of antimicrobials such as Quinolones, Streptomycin, Chloramphenicol, Nitrofurans, and more. Macquarie University's method is the only internationally accepted method for determining honey adulteration and detects the presence of sugars from C4 plants, which group includes corn and sugar cane. In contrast, pure honey is made from the nectar of flowers from a different group, called C3 plants. Some operators adulterate honey with rice sugars, which enables them to avoid the C4 test.
History of Adulterate
Food adulteration has evolved from fraud to lucrative business. In the past, two of the numerous occurrences happened in 1959 when olive oil was adulterated with lubricating jet engine oil, and in 1981 in Spain when people died after consuming denatured rapeseed oil, labeled as olive oil.
More recently, in 2007, authorities encountered melamine in pet food and, in 2008, in milk products. Melamine was the cause of severe illnesses and deaths in China, where the products originated, and worldwide.
Product contamination has been around for many years. Still, the US Government Accountability Office highlighted product contamination in November 2011 when it made public a report on the Food and Drug Administration's ability to identify adulteration in food and drugs.