Adulteration in chilli Chilli whole

The following points of adulteration may be considered:

1 Extraneous matter including calyx pieces, loose tops, dirt, lumps of earth, stones and mould growth, etc. If the mould or the sprouted spores are identified as those producing toxins, e.g. Aspergilli or Penicillia, the apprehended mycotoxins should be looked for.

2 Extraneous colouring matter (Mitra et al., 1961; Banerjee et al., 1974), coating of mineral oils (Sen et al., 1973) or other facing and coating liquids or powders.

3 Insect-damaged foods and related matters.

4 Harmful substances.

The items are analysed as usual. While in whole chilli insect damage is estimated by refraction, that in powder or paste is estimated by colorimetry of uric acid (Martin, 1979) and by chromatography techniques (Sengupta et al., 1972).

Powdered (or paste) chilli

1 Excessive moisture, dirt, dust, mould growth, insect infestation, fermentation, extraneous matter, and added colouring and flavouring agents are the main adulterants.

2 It is claimed that a small amount of edible oil is used for post-harvest processing of whole chilli and powdering or pasting chilli. Hence, Indian standard specification allows a maximum of 2% of such oils in chilli powder with the following labelling declaration "Chillies in this package contain an admixture of not more than 2% of ... (name of the edible oil)" (Food Regulations, 1955).

3 Microscopic detection of adulterants: Microscopic structure of chilli powder or paste has been worked out (Winton and Winton, 1947; Parry, 1969). Thus, aleurone, chloroplasts, cuticle, cuticle grooves, endocarp, endosperm, exocarp, giant cells, hairs, hypodermis, mesocarp, oil drops, phloem, fibre, seed coat, spiral vessels, stone cells, vascular bundles, xylem fibres, etc. have been recognised and documented. It is possible for any foreign matter to be recognised by the presence of uncharacteristic structures or by detection of well-known foreign microscopic structures like different starches. Chilli powder is not known to have starch granules, though acid hydrolysed and diastase (Mitra et al., 1970) treated cell contents can provide reducing equivalents not of glucose but of pentoses from pentosans and hemi-celluloses. Powdered calyces and pedicels if present in excess in chilli powder or paste will constitute adulteration.

4 Chilli is cheap and even though at present there is no major market for capsaicin, the pungent principle of chilli, or its derivatives, it will soon be in great demand due to its preservative, antioxidant and medicinal properties. There is a possibility that chilli (whole or powdered) can be partially extracted of capsaicin. Such samples can be deemed adulterated as anything abstracted or added without labelling constitutes adulteration. This deficiency can be detected by estimating the pungency in Scoville units (International Standards Organisation, 1977) and its deficiency from usual and undisputed concentration of capsaicin or from the lowest concentration as permitted in the standard specification. It is possible that capsaicin is taken as a parameter along with others for grading chilli. The deficiency will decrease the non-volatile ether extract of chilli, which is an important analytical parameter of authenticity of a sample of chilli.

Detection and estimation of carotenoids can also be carried out in normal and extracted chilli (Banerjee et al., 1973). If the normal value is established by analysing a large number of any particular variety, then the deficiency in the extracted samples can be detected.

5 It is possible that the non-volatile ether extract of chilli can be fraudulentally boosted by oils. This can be ascertained by detecting if mineral oil is added (Sen et al., 1973) or by estimating iodine value of lipids extracted from chilli powder. Chilli seed oil has an iodine value of 126, which will be increased or decreased according to the extraneous oil added.

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