CityGreens Consumer Awareness Initiative. How to check for adulteration in Sugar

Sugars are unhealthy. The more refined they are, the worse are the health effects. Add to that some harmful adulterants, and sugar may be one of the most noxious items in your kitchen drawer.

Adulterants in Sugar:

Common adulterants added to sugar are plastic crystals, urea, washing soda, and chalk powder. The latter two are added to powdered sugar whilst the first two to sugar crystals.

  • Chalk: Chalk is added to sugar to improve its color and increase its weight. Unless chalk itself is adulterated, the one added to sugar will consist purely of Calcium Carbonate. Chalk itself is not very harmful in small quantities, but once ingested, the calcium may bond with oxalates inside the digestive system and create Calcium Oxalate crystals which may get stuck in the kidney as kidney stones.
  • Urea: Urea is a white crystalline powder. It is majorly Nitrogen and used actively in agriculture. In our bodies, urea is formed in small quantities in the liver. Kidneys then eliminate it into the bladder. An excess amount of urea means a high load on kidneys. In high doses, it can affect mental health adversely.
  • Washing Soda: Washing soda is not meant to be ingested and can cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Plastic Crystals: Plastic is not food. It can cause cancer. It is widely used to adulterate in urban hubs like Hyderabad (especially old Hyderabad), Patna, Delhi, and Bengaluru. You can validate that by searching for news snippets on Google.

Home test to detect the presence of adulterants in Sugar:

  • Chalk: Calcium Carbonate is insoluble in water. Add a little sugar to water and wait for 10 minutes. Any chalk, if present, will settle down as an undissolved white powder.
  • Urea: Urea is soluble in water, however, once dissolved, it releases a distinct odor of ammonia. Dissolve a little amount of sugar in water and smell it to check for the presence of Urea.
  • Washing Powder: Add sugar to water and shake it till it dissolves completely. If washing powder is present, it will froth.
  • Plastic Crystals: Plastic is insoluble in water. Add a pinch of sugar to cold water and dissolve it. Any undissolved particles will either be plastic or any other impurities.

To be on safer side, avoid buying loose sugar from the market.

Stay Safe!

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