Unlike our elders and ancestors, the spices and curry powders in almost all of our kitchens are purchased from markets and grocery stores, owing to our sheer inability to devote time to grind these at home.
But not everything can be substituted by manufacturing industries.
And given the increasing number of stories of adulterated products surfacing each day, the fact that something as basic as curry powder can be laced with harmful components cannot be entirely ruled out.
Which is precisely the reason why Kerala resident Leonard John filed a petition in the state High Court to ban curry powders laced with Ethion, an organophosphate insecticide, which is known to be a potent carcinogen. (A carcinogen is a substance that causes cancer or helps the growth of cancer-causing cells in the body.)
John had moved the HC after coming across various news reports alleging that most curry powders manufactured across the state were tainted with the toxic chemical compound.
The petition drew attention to the tests conducted at the Pesticide Residue Research Analytical Laboratory of Kerala Agricultural University at Vellayani, in which almost 86 per cent of red chilli powder samples were found to contain ethion.
It also stated that of the 94 curry powders tested, 22 were found to be unsafe for human consumption for the same reason, reports The Times of India.
So what would exactly happen if you unknowingly consumed an ethion-tainted product?
Interestingly, such is the toxicity of the pesticide that even its inhalation, ingestion or even absorption via the skin is documented to have perilous effects on humans.
Further, any form of exposure to ethion can result in conditions like pallor, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, headache, dizziness, eye pain, blurred vision, constriction or dilation of the eye pupils, tears, salivation, sweating, and confusion. These symptoms may develop within 12 hours of consuming small quantities of ethion.
In cases of larger intake, one may end up with serious medical conditions like distorted coordination, loss of reflexes, slurred speech, fatigue and weakness, tremors of the tongue and eyelids, and involuntary muscle contractions.
Moreover, hazardous situations amounting to paralysis and even death, resulting from cardiac or respiratory failure, have also been reported.
However, the petition in the HC states that the products adulterated with ethion have the potential to trigger cancer, kidney disease and growth abnormality in children as well as lead to serious health implications among pregnant women.
So, take care and be cautious of what you consume. If you recognise any of these symptoms, it is advisable to get your spices and curry powders checked by the concerned food regulation authorities.
It may not be a bad idea to consider grinding your spices at home either.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)