Chemical colouring of cardamom suspected

Huge haul of sodium carbonate from a unit in Idukki

Updated - December 13, 2020 12:13 am IST

Published - December 13, 2020 12:12 am IST - IDUKKI

Cardamom being checked for chemical colouring at a unit in Idukki.

Cardamom being checked for chemical colouring at a unit in Idukki.

A seizure on Friday of a large quantity of sodium carbonate from an industrial unit at Mundiyeruma in the district has exposed the possibility of chemical colouring of cardamom. It is suspected that the colouring chemical was being distributed to cardamom dryer units in the district.

A special team of the Spices Board of India and officials of the Food Safety Department seized 2,475 kg of sodium carbonate from the unit following the detection of the chemical from a cardamom dryer unit.

Many ramifications

Chemical colouring may lead to rejection of consignments impacting cardamom exports. The use of chemical to add colour was noticed nearly three years ago and officials had held an awareness campaign against it then.

Officials of the Food Safety Department had collected samples of cardamom to test for chemical colouring at its circle offices in cardamom producing areas last year.

Benny Joseph, Assistant Commissioner, Food Safety Department, says artificial colouring of cardamom is prohibited and the wing will conduct raids with the help of the spices board.

Farmers go for chemical colouring prompted by the high prices for the first grade at auctions. The quality of cardamom is decided by its colour, shape, size, and oil content. Farmers tend to add colour to the commodity to make it appear as Alleppey Green, considered the best variety by buyers.

“If chemical residue is found above the permissible level, it will be rejected by importing countries impacting the export prospects of Indian cardamom. There are carcinogenic elements in chemical colouring and legal action can be initiated if it is found in the samples,” says a scientist at the Indian Cardamom Research Institute, Myladumpara.

Natural way

“Through natural scientific processing and by controlling humidity, green colour can be maintained in the beans,” he says.

The colouring is usually done at dryer units. Green colour in dried cardamom creates a feeling among farmers that the produce is first grade if the process is done at a particular unit. At times, farmers also insist on adding chemical colour. In the domestic market, the colouring is not monitored and the practice goes unimpeded.

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