CityGreens Consumer Awareness Initiative. How to check for adulteration in Black Pepper.

Black Pepper is a very healthy spice. From stimulating digestion to relieving cough and cold to even preventing cancer (due to its piperine content), its benefits are aplenty. People consume black pepper either in powdered form or as peppercorns. Unfortunately, both of these variants are susceptible to adulteration.


The practice of adulteration in black pepper is more widespread than one would like to believe. In 2013, six warehouses of NCDEX (National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange) were raided and found to have adulterated black pepper unfit for human consumption. The extent of adulteration was such that it prompted authorities to order destroying of a mighty 900 tonnes of black pepper stored with NCDEX.

Adulterants added to black pepper:

Papaya seeds:
Dried papaya seeds look similar in shape and size to peppercorns. These are the most widely used adulterant in black pepper both in dried form and in powdered form.

Mineral Oil:
Mineral oil is added to peppercorns to act as a fungicide and also to give a shiny look to peppercorns. Addition of mineral oil makes pepper unfit for human consumption. This was the adulterant found in NCDEX incidence mentioned above.

Sawdust is added to pepper in powder form to reduce cost and increase the profitability for sellers.

Home-based test to detect the presence of adulterants in black pepper:

Thankfully, checking for the presence of adulterants in black pepper is easy and can be done by a simple test that won’t take more than a minute.

Drop a small number of peppercorns or a little amount of black pepper powder in a clear glass full of water.

Pepper powder or peppercorns will settle down due to their weight. Papaya seeds or Papaya seed powder, on the other hand, will float. Similarly, sawdust will also float on the surface of the water. Now stir the water and look for the presence of an oily film or tiny oil droplets. Any signs of oil will indicate the presence of mineral oil in the pepper.

If your tests show the presence of mineral oil in the pepper, discard it. Mineral oil is unfit for human consumption and harmful even in small quantities. Do try out this simple test at home to be sure that your family eats healthy and stays healthy.

Stay Safe!

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