Which Are the Most Commonly Adulterated Foods?

Adulterated foods are items marketed as pure but that actually have other substances added to them without the consumer’s knowledge, with the most commonly affected products being olive oil, milk, honey and saffron. The US Pharmacopeial Convention (USPC) has developed a database of more than 1,000 instances of food adulteration from 1980 to 2010. The bulk of adulterated foods do not necessarily contain toxic ingredients, but rather cheaper ingredients. For example, some olive oil marketed as 100% pure has been determined to have been mixed with corn oil or soybean oil. Some adulteration cases might be dangerous, such as if a person is allergic to replacement ingredients or if toxic substances have been added. Out of the 194 cases of milk adulteration recorded from 1980 to 2010, 24 instances included the use of melamine, a compound that is used in plastic and adhesives, and which can be poisonous to humans.

More about adulterated foods:

  • Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world, with prices of as much as $10,000 US Dollars per pound (0.45 kg), and instances have been recorded of it being adulterated with starch, yellow dye and sandlewood dust.

  • Some juice marketed as 100% pure orange juice has been found to contain grapefruit juice and paprika.

  • In 2008, more than 300,000 people in China became ill and six babies died because of milk and infant formula being adulterated with melamine.
More Info: usp.org

Discussion Comments


@Anon341003: Grapefruit juice can interfere with medication, so it can be very dangerous.


@post 6: Reconsider grapefruit. It has properties which alter the liver's breakdown of other substances - particularly medications, which can be toxic or even deadly if not broken down as anticipated in the dosing.


Adulterated foods is one of the big public health issues in many countries --developed, underdeveloped or developing. From basic milk products to food grains, everything is adulterated at the cost of the public health.

It is the greedy manufacturers with sole motive of profits who are indulging in this.

In India, most of the big cities have highest level of adulterated food items, all under public health authorities.

Almost every country has its own laws and regulations regarding public health and food adulteration. But the problem is, as usual, their implementation. Alas, who cares about public health?.


Most of the honey you get is part high fructose corn syrup. Even KFC puts it in their meals and calls it honey sauce. I don't eat it. Corn syrup is a genetically modified product thanks to Monsanto Co., et al. Much of our food stuffs have been GM or GE. Also the bees are dying because of roundup (made by Monsanto) pesticide, et al. The latest info is 95 percent of beet sugar is GM. Cane sugar is not. It costs more, but your body is worth it!


Re: 100 percent pure orange juice: Both grapefruit and paprika are highly beneficial for one's health, so unless you are allergic to paprika, what's the problem?


I believe (hope) that only in China was melamine added to milk. The process was probably that the providers added water to the milk, then added melamine to increase the nitrogen content. Nitrogen is tested to estimate the protein content. Some of these providers were actually executed for their adulteration (and the horrible publicity that resulted). Interestingly, Cadbury Chocolate, which had moved their factories from Great Britain to China, had used this cheaper milk in some of their products. So did they go back to Great Britain? Does anyone know? --Bree


Honey has always been a problem. It contains BPP! Think about it!


Poor regulation is worse than no regulation. --Eric


In the advanced world we live in we are never sure about what we are eating. The latest was the scandal in Europe in early 2013 where beef was replaced with horsemeat and passed off as beef. And the figures were in hundreds of tons, and this was exported to various countries. Fortunately, it was edible. In some countries, any other animal such as donkey-meat is sold off as beef.

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