‘Operation Elachi’ exposes chemical colouring

Chemically coloured cardamom being tested at a dryer unit at Rajakkad, Idukki district.  

Large-scale chemical colouring of cardamom was exposed after the Spices Board of India and the Food Safety Department conducted inspections at dryer units at Rajakkad and Kunthunkal in Idukki recently.

Officials say it poses threat to export prospects in addition to health hazards. The officials seized around 1.5 tonnes of artificially coloured cardamom in the drive named ‘Operation Elachi’ and a fine of ₹1 lakh was imposed on the dryer units.

The officials also destroyed around 100 kg of coloured cardamom found detrimental to health at two dryer units at Rajakkad. Around a 1,000 kg of cardamom artificially coloured were also seized from a dyer unit near Kunthunkal. Legal action will be taken against those who run the dryer units, they say.

The cardamom is chemically coloured green to give an impression of better quality so that it will fetch high price in auctions. The quality of the best graded cardamom is decided on colour, shape, and size.

Operation Elachi follows the recent seizure of large quantities of cardamom with chemical ingredients from the Bisonvalley area.

A.K. Vijayan, former head of the crop protection unit at the Indian Cardamom Research Institute, says chemical colouring poses a threat now, while it was the application of red-labelled chemical pesticides earlier. The process is done in dryer units. It will harm the export prospects as colour is directly applied and can be easily detected during quality checks, resulting in denial of orders.

Owner of a dryer unit at Peerumade, on condition of anonymity, says those who bring green cardamom to the units seek to add colour to the produce. If it is not done, they will take it other units where it is done. It will create an impression that the dryer unit which does not do colouring is not properly drying cardamom and the quality is poor there. Those running the dryer units are forced to heed to the demand, he says.

An official at the Food Safety Department says the inspections will continue and those doing artificial colouring will be penalised.

Operation Elachi was led by Ranganathan Iyer, Deputy Director, Spices Board, and N. Shamsia and Anmary Johnson, officials of the Food Safety Department.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 1:55:31 AM |

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