Jaggery, not so healthy after all

The report says that the main purpose behind using these additives is to remove impurities easily and give it the desired colour.  

The humble jaggery, increasingly regarded as a healthier alternative to white sugar, is not necessarily safe if you are buying it without a thought on what is going into it. A recent report by the Cooperation Department shows that a host of chemicals and adulterants go into it in several jaggery-making units.

Jaggery units in Karnataka, particularly in Mandya region, have been using different types of chemicals/additives, including calcium hydroxide, sodium hydrosulphite (hydrose), sodium formaldehyde sulfoxylate (safolite), ortho-phosphoric acid, seashells, baking soda, oil (castor/coconut), and orange-red powder (artificial food colouring), reveals the report submitted recently to the government.

The main purpose behind using these additives is to remove impurities easily and give it the desired colour. Sugar is also added as a thickening agent, reducing the processing time, says the report by Additional Secretary, Cooperation Department. It also notes that some manufacturing units, in contrast, have also been using lady’s finger stem and powder as safer alternative clarificants.

Karnataka ranks third in sugarcane cultivation that is concentrated in Belagavi, Bagalkot, Mandya, Bidar, Ballari and Vijayapura districts. Mandya district alone has 532 jaggery manufacturing units with an output of at least 10 lakh tonnes of jaggery a year. Jaggery samples were collected from Mandya, Yeshwantpur and Mahalingapur and tested at the Regional Agmark Laboratory, Guntur. The tests revealed that higher level of sulphur dioxide residue was found in light coloured jaggery samples from Mandya market than the samples collected from Yeshwantpur and Mahalingapur markets. This could be attributed to the excess use of chemicals such as hydrose and safolite, the report said.

The report said sodium hydrosulphite (commonly used as a reducing/bleaching agent in textiles, dyeing, leather, paper pulp and other industries) was used as bleaching agent in jaggery manufacturing. These sodium-based chemicals also lead to the reduced shelf life of jaggery, as sodium being highly hygroscopic in nature absorbs moisture from atmosphere that softens the jaggery and makes it mushy.

The sulphur-based chemicals (sulfoxylate) leads to increase in sulphurdi-oxide residue in jaggery. Ortho-phosphoric acid is also used as bleaching agent and when it exceeds the limits, it is harmful.

Use vegetable clarificants

CFTRI, Mysuru, has recommended the use of vegetable clarificants as alternative to chemicals.

Indiscriminate use of the chemicals is not only harmful for consumption but also reduces the shelf life of the product forcing the farmers to distress sales within a week from processing, irrespective of the prevailing price in the market, says the report.

The demand for jaggery was usually based on colour. Jaggery with light golden yellow colour and firm hardness fetched more price in comparison to other varieties. The next preferred colours were kesari and golden yellow. Dark brown coloured jaggery had the least demand, which the report says in the main reason for chemical additives. On an average, price difference of ₹100 to ₹500 per quintal was found between different varieties of jaggery based on variation in colour and shape.

India accounts for over 70% of the total global jaggery production. India exports jaggery to many countries, including Bangladesh, the U.K., Canada, Chile, Egypt, Fiji, Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal, and the U.S.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2021 12:23:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/jaggery-not-so-healthy-after-all/article19611979.ece

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