The seizing of a large quantity of sodium carbonate from the Mundiyeruma industrial unit in the Idukki district of Kerala on Friday revealed the possibility of colouring the cardamom with chemicals. The colouring chemical is believed to have been distributed in the district to cardamom dryer units.
Following the identification of the cardamom dryer substance, a special team from the Indian Spices Board and officials from the Food Safety Department seized 2,475 kg of sodium carbonate from the unit.
Chemical colouring Effects
Chemical colouring may lead to the refusal of shipments affecting the export of cardamom. Approximately three years ago, the use of chemicals to add colour was observed and officials then launched a campaign to raise awareness against it.
Last year, Food Safety Department officials gathered samples of cardamom for chemical colouring testing at its circle offices in cardamom-producing areas.
The artificial colouring of cardamom is prohibited, says Benny Joseph, Assistant Commissioner for Food Safety, and the wing will raid with the assistance of the spice board.
Due to the high prices at auctions for the first grade, farmers are tempt to go for chemical colouring . Its colour, form, size and oil content determine the quality of cardamom. In order to make it appear as Alleppey Green, regarded by the buyers to be the best variety, farmers prefer to add colour to the product.
‘If the test results show that the chemical residues exceed the permissible limit, the importing nations which have an effect on the export prospects of Indian cardamom would reject them. Carcinogenic elements are present in chemical colouring and legal action may be taken if they are detected in the samples,’ says Myladumpara, a scientist at the Indian Cardamom Research Institute (ICRI).
Natural green colour matters
‘Green colour can be maintained in the beans through natural scientific processing and by maintaining humidity at required level,’ he says. In dryer units, colouring is normally finished. In dried cardamom, the green colour creates a feeling among farmers that if the process is performed at a specific unit, the produce is first grade. Farmers also insist on applying chemical colour at times. The colouring is not monitored in the domestic market and the activity goes unimpeded.