Household tests which could be easily at your home

Quick Tests for some adulterants in the food

Name of Food Article Adulterant Simple Method for detection of Common Adulterants Remarks
Oils and Fats Argemone oil
  • Take some quantity of oil in a test tube.
  • Add equal quantity of concentrated Nitric acid and shake carefully.
  • Red to reddish brown color in lower (acid) layer would indicate the presence of Argemone oil
Milk Water
  • The presence of water can be by putting a drop of milk on a polished slanting surface. The drop of pure milk either or flows lowly leaving a white trail behind it, whereas milk adulterated water will flow immediately without leaving a mark.
Milk Starch
  • Add a few drops of tincture of Iodine or Iodine solution. Formation of blue colour indicates the presence of starch.
Iodine solution is easily available in the medical stores.
Milk Urea
  • Take a teaspoon of milk in a test tube. Add ½ teaspoon of soybean or arhar powder. Mix up the contents thoroughly by shaking the test tube. After 5 minutes, dip a red litmus paper in it. Remove the paper after ½ a minute. A change in colour from red to blue indicates the presence of urea in the milk.
Milk Vanaspati
  • Take 3 ml of milk in a test tube. Add 10 drops of hydrochloric acid. Mix up one teaspoonful of sugar. After 5 minutes, examine the mixture. The red colouration indicates the presence of vanaspati in the milk.
Milk Formalin
  • Take 10 ml of milk in a tests tube and add 5 ml of con sulphuric acid from the sides of the wall without shaking. If a violet or blue ring appears at the intersection of two layers then it shows presence of formalin.
Formalin enhances the life of milk and thus is added for preservationpurpose.
Milk Synthetic milk
  • Synthetic milk has a bitter after taste, gives a soapy feeling on rubbing between the fingers and turns yellowish on heating
Milk Synthetic milk -test for protein
  • The milk can easily be tested by Urease strips (available in the Medical stores) because Synthetic milk is devoid of protein.
Milk Test for Glucose/inverted sugar
  • Milk does not contain glucose /invert sugar, if test for glucose with urease strip found positive. It means milk is adulterated.
If it is made synthetically by adding while colour water paint. Oils, alkali, urea and detergent etc. Glucose, inverted sugar syrup is added in milk to increase the consistency and test.
Ghee, cottage cheese, condensed milk, khoa, milk powder etc, Coal Tar Dyes
  • Add 5 ml of dil. H2SO4 or conc. HCL to one teaspoon full of melted sample in a test tube. Shake well. Pink colour (in case of H2SO4) or crimson colour (in case of HCl) indicates coal tar dyes. If HCl does not give colour dilute it with water to get the colour.
Sweet Curd Vanaspati
  • Take1 teaspoon full of curd in a test tube. Add 10 drops of hydrochloric acid. Mix up the contents shaking the test tube gently. After 5 minutes, examine the mixture. The red colouration indicates the presence of vanaspati in the curd.
Rabdi Blotting paper
  • Take a teaspoon of rabri in a test tube. Add 3 ml of hydrochloric acid and 3 ml of distilled water. Stir the content with a glass rod. Remove the rod and examine. Presence of fine fibres to the glass rod will indicate the presence of blotting paper in rabri.
Khoa and its products Starch
  • Boil a small quantity of sample with some water, cool and add -a few drops of Iodine solution. Formation of blue colour indicates the presence of starch .
Chhana or Paneer Starch
  • Boil a small quantity of sample with some water, cool and add a few drops of Iodine solution. Formation of blue colour indicates the presence of starch.
Ghee Vanaspathy or Margarine
  • Take about one tea spoon full of melted sample of Ghee with equal quantity of concentrated Hydrochloric acid in a stoppered test tube and add to it a pinch of sugar. Shake for one minute and let it for five minutes. Appearance of crimson colour in lower (acid) of Vanaspati or Margarine.
The test is specific for seasame oil which is compulsorily added to Vanaspati and Mrgarine. Some coal tar colours also give a positive test. If the test is positive i.e. red colour develops only by adding strong Hydrochloric acid (without adding crystals of sugar) then the sample is adulterated with coal tar dye. If the crimson or red colour develops after adding and shaking with sugar, then alone Vanaspati or Margarine is present
Ghee Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes and other starches.
  • The presence of mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes in a sample of ghee can easily be detected by adding a few drops of Iodine, which is brownish in colour turns to blue if mashed potatoes/sweet potatoes/other starches are present.
Butter Vanaspati or Margarine
  • Take about one teaspoon full of melted sample of butter with equal quantity of concentrated Hydrochloric acid in a stoppered test tube and add to it a pinch of sugar. Shake for one minute and let it for five minutes. Appearance of crimson colour in lower (acid) of Vanaspati or Margarine.
The test is specific for seasame oil which is compulsorily added to Vanaspati and Mrgarine. Some coal tar colours also give a positive test. If the test is positive i.e. red colour develops only by adding strong Hydrochloric acid (without adding crystals of sugar) then the sample is adulterated with coal tar dye. If the crimson or red colour develops after adding and shaking with sugar, then alone Vanaspati or Margarine is present
Edible oil Prohibited colour
  • Take 20 drops of the edible oil in each of the four test tubes. Make 3 different solutions, mixing up 1 part of distilled water, 3 parts of distilled water and 4 parts of distilled water. Add 2 ml of each solution in each of the test tubes and add 2 ml of hydrochloric acid in the mixture of any tube, indicates the presence of prohibited colour in the edible oil..
Coconut oil Any other oil
  • Place a small bottle of oil in refrigerator. Coconut oil solidifies leaving the adulterant as a Separate layer.
Whole spices Dirt, dust, straw, insect, damaged seeds, other seeds, rodent hair and excrete
  • These can be examined visually
Black pepper Papaya seeds
  • Papaya seeds can be separated out from pepper as they are shrunken, oval in shape and greenish brown or brownish black in colour.
Black pepper Light black pepper
  • Float the sample of black pepper in alcohol (rectified spirit). The black pepper berries sink while the papaya seeds and light black pepper float.
Black pepper Coated with mineral oil
  • Black pepper coated with mineral oil gives Kerosene like smell.
Cloves Volatile oil extracted (exhausted cloves)
  • Exhausted cloves can be identified by its small size and shrunken appearance. The characteristic pungent of genuine cloves is less pronounced in exhausted cloves.
Mustard seed Argemone seed
  • Mustard seeds have a smooth surface The argemone seed have grainy and rough surface and are black and hence can be separated out by close examination. When Mustard seed is pressed inside it is yellow while for Argemone seed it is white
Use magnifying glass for identification
Powdered spices Added starch
  • Add a few drops of tincture of Iodine or Iodine solution. Indication of blue colour shows the presence of starch.
Iodine test for added starch is not applicable for turmeric powder.
Turmeric powder Coloured saw dust
  • Take a tea spoon full of turmeric powder in a test tube. Add a few drops of concentrated Hydrochloric acid. Instant appearance of pink colour which disappears on dilution with water shows the presence of turmeric If the colour persists, metanil yellow (an artificial colour) a now permitted coal tar colour is present.
This test is only for Metanil yellow .
Turmeric powder Chalk powder or yellow soap stone powder
  • Take a small quantity of turmeric powder in a test tube containing small quantity of water. Add a few drops of concentrated Hydrochloric acid, effervescence (give off bubbles) will indicate the presence of chalk or yellow soap stone powder .
Chillies powder Brick powder, salt powder or talc, powder
  • Take a tea spoon full of chillies powder in a glass of water. Coloured water extract will show the presence of artificial colour. Any grittiness that may be felt on rubbing the sediment at the bottom of glass confirms the presence of brick powder/sand, soapy and smooth touch of the white residue at the bottom indicates the presence of soap stone. To a little powder of chilli add small amount of conc HCl and mix to the consistency of paste, dip the rear end of the match stick into the paste and hold over the flame, brick red flame colour due to the presence of calcium slats in brick powder.
This test is only for earthy material
Chillies powder Artificial colours
  • Sprinkle the chilli powder on a glass of water. Artificial colorants descend as coloured streaks.
Chillies powder Water soluble coal tar colour
  • Water soluble artificial colour can be detected by sprinkling a small quantity of chillies or turmeric powder on the surface of water contained in a glass tumbler. The water soluble colour will immediately start descending in colour streaks
Asafoetida (Hing) Soap stone or other earthy material
  • Shake little portion of the sample with water and allow to settle. Soap stone or other earthy mailer will settle down at the bottom.
In compounded asafoetida due to presence of starch, a slight turbid solution may be produced. However, this will settle down after keeping
Asafoetida (Hing) Starch
  • Add tincture of iodine, appearance of blue colour shows the presence of starch.
Compound of asafoetida contains starch which is declared on the label. This test is not applicable for compound asafoetida.
Asafoetida (Hing) Foreign resin
  • Burn on a spoon, if the sample burns like camphor, it indicates the sample is pure.
Pure hing burns like aromatic camphor
Spices Powdered bran and saw dust
  • Sprinkle on water surface. Powdered bran and sawdust float on the surface.
Cinnamon Cassia bark
  • Cinnamon barks are very thin and can be rolled. It can be rolled around a pencil or pen. It has a distinct smell. Whereas cassia ark comprise of several layers in between the rough outer and inner most smooth layers. On examination of the ark loosely, a clear distinction can be made.
Cumin seeds Grass seeds coloured with charcoal dust
  • Rub the cumin seeds on palms. If palms turn black adulteration is indicated.
Green chilli and green vegetables. Malachite green
  • Take a cotton piece soaked in liquid paraffin and rub the outer green surface of a small part of green vegetable. If the cotton turns, green, we can say the vegetable is adulterated with malachite green.
Green peas Artificially coloured
  • Take a little amount of green peas in a 250 ml beaker add water to it and mix well. Let it stand for half an hour. Clear separation of colour in water indicates adulteration.
Saffron Dried tendrils of maizecob
  • Genuine saffron will not break easily like artificial. Artificial saffron is prepared by soaking maize cob in sugar and colouring it with coal tar colour. The colour dissolves in water if artificially coloured. A bit of pure saffron when allowed to dissolved in water will continue to give its saffron colour so long as it lasts.


Click here to know the procedure for finding out adulterated milk


Milk Test

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