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Safety and Quality: Food Contaminants and Adulteration Essay

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Updated: Nov 15th, 2021

Food safety and quality play a major role in disease prevention. However, food contaminants and adulterants may be present in food as the food undergoes the various stages of its processing, blending, packaging, transport, and marketing. Food contaminants are foreign materials added to the food with a purpose/willingly. Food contamination can occur from the environmental, bacterial, fungal, or chemical fields. Some of these contaminants added to the food and pose a great threat to human health are; oxalic acid, fluoride, Ascaris lumbricoides, bacillus cereus, salmonella species, metals ( mercury, lead, cadmium, inorganic tin), mycotoxins (patulin, aflatoxins, ochratoxins) polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrates (Food safety 2009 par. 1). Food adulteration according to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (1938) is any food that contains materials that are injurious or noxious to the health of a human being. These adulterants may include substances like food additives, color additives, pesticide residue, and animal drugs that are harmful to someone. If the irradiation process fails to be conventional with the rules, it may result in food adulteration (Enotes 2009 par. 2). Food contamination and adulteration are either due to recklessness, unhygienic conditions during food production, packaging, storing, and marketing, or because of financial benefits. Both food contaminants and adulteration pose a great health risk to individuals and health effects associated with them are cancer, paralysis, lathyrism, brain damage, abortion, anemia, blindness, and death just to mention a few (Dr. Jaiswal n.d par 2).

Food contamination and adulteration continue to exist up to date and there is a real threat to everyone even those who are part of the food chain. Recently, melamine had been added to milk powder to increase the protein content in China (Science & Technology 2009 par. 2). Generally, protein levels in a milk sample are determined by measuring the amount of nitrogen level in the milk ( Iben’s n.d par 6) Therefore, the idea of adding melamine to the milk to increase its protein levels is wrong because melamine contains six atoms of nitrogen. Hence, any addition of melamine to the milk drastically increases the nitrogen levels detected in the milk test, leading to incorrectly high protein approximations. Moreover, the same melamine used to increase the protein contents, has other substances like cyanuric acid that mix with melamine to form crystals, which accumulate in the kidneys leading to renal failure and kidney stones (Iben’s n.d par 6). This act of adding melamine to the milk is of great risk to the health especially the kidney that performs essential functions in the body. Therefore, the crystals that lead to kidney stones and renal failure hinder the following vital functions of the kidney from taking place. These include; removal of wastes and water from the blood, hormones release, body chemicals balance, control of blood pressure, helping in the red blood cells production, and the production of vitamin D, which makes the bones strong and healthy. Failure of the above might even lead to death.

Metals added to food intentionally like lead are very poisonous. According to Science and Technology (2009 par 1) lead salt was used to sweeten wines during the times of Victorian. Apart from adding it to wine, lead is also accumulating in aquatic food due to the contaminated water and sediments from the industries that are being disposed of without being treated. For individuals who consume this kind of food or beverages, their health is at risk since lead has adverse effects. These effects range from short-term to long-term effects depending on the type of exposure. Lead leads to vomiting, abdominal pains, anemia, lack of intellectual growth, and retarded growth in children. This type of metal is very dangerous because it causes damage to the central nervous system of unborn and young children (Kwok 2008 par. 8). The target body systems and organs for lead are the nervous systems, kidneys, and hematopoietic systems. Excess amount of lead in the blood in children is associated with the occurrence of anemia while in the nervous system it can lead to high mortality cases.

Bearing in mind that both food contamination and adulteration have different consequences, they are both dangerous. However, food contamination is more dangerous especially in this generation because the contaminants are from different sources ranging from natural to metals. Hence, the consumption of such substances poses a great threat to human health. The target organs for contaminants like the metals are the nervous system, kidney, and blood, which are very vital in the functioning of a body.

However, food contamination and adulteration are preventable by ensuring that all the right procedures are applied. Every food industry should follow the system of the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) to ensure effectiveness in all stages of food production and eventually it will lead to only the legally satisfactory foodstuffs getting into the market. Therefore, if contaminated and adulterated food is getting its way into the market, it means that the industries or the stakeholders are not carrying out their responsibilities properly. Firstly, they should determine all the potential hazards in all stages from growth to consumption that is related to food production. Secondly, they should obtain ways on how to eliminate or reduce any hazards and have a system that can check all the critical control points. Thirdly, corrective measures are to be taken in case any critical control point is not managed. Finally, there should be tests and procedures to show that HACCP is working properly (Whitehead & Orriss n.d par. 4).

The recent case of the addition of melamine in the milk to increase the protein level indicates clearly that food contaminants and adulterants are not only present in food accidentally but it is also intentional. Therefore, to ensure the food that gets into the market is of good quality and is safe, great measures have to take place. This is only possible if all food industries follow the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) system. This is because food that is not safe can pose a great threat to the health of an individual.


Dr. Jaiswal P.K. Common Adulterants/Contaminants in food and Simple screening tests for their detection. n.d. 2009. Web.

Enotes. Adulteration of Food. 2009. Web.

Food Safety. Food Contaminants – Introduction. 2009. Web.

Ibens Denise. The Great Melamine Scare. n.d.2009. Web.

Ms. Kwok Joey. Lead Exposure in Our Everyday Life. 2009. Web.

Science and Technology. Changing times, changing risks. 2009. Web.

Whitehead A.J & Orriss G. Food safety through HACCP – The FAO approach. n.d. 2009. Web.

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