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Adulteration of Food is the reduction the quality of food stuffs either by the admixture or substitution of inferior substances or by the removal of a valuable ingredient.[1] The adulteration of food can lead to severe illness and disability.



Adulteration of food has been around since before the Greek and Roman ages when wine was was intentionally miscolored.[2] But it was not brought into negative attention until German chemist,Frederick Accum, and medic Arthur Hill Hassall began to extensively speak and write on the subject.[3]

The Sale of Food and Drugs Act of 1875

The first law against the adulteration of food came into effect in Great Britain on October 1, 1875 and was known as the The Sale of Food and Drugs Act.[4] The Act was not passed to protect consumers, rather it was enacted to protect the countries internal revenue.

19th Century Additives and their Effects

Additive 19th Century Use Current Uses Disability/Illness
Lead tetroxide or "red lead" Red food coloring for cheese and cayenne pepper Batteries, lead glass and rust-proof paint agitation, irritability, vision disorders, hypertension
copper salts Green food coloring for pickles Green on the Statue of Liberty, fungicide Possible symptoms include coughing, sneezing, pain in the chest, nausea, diarrhea, eye irritation, headaches and muscle aches, death by nervous system, liver and kidney failure, severe neurological or psychiatric problems, and childhood cirrhosis.[5] People with certain liver diseases and those with an inherited inability to metabolize copper are particularly sensitive to copper toxicity, such as people with Menkes disease, hereditary ceruloplasminemia, and Wilson’s disease.
Sulfuric acid "Sharpening" vinegar


  1. "food adulteration." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Accessed on June 3, 2008.
  2. "food adulteration." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Accessed on June 3, 2008.
  3. "The fight against food adulteration." Royal Society of Chemistry. 2008. Accessed on June 3, 2008.
  4. The Sale of Food and Drugs Act. 38 & 39 Vict. Ch.63
  5. "The facts on copper." Dartmouth Toxic Metals Research Program. Arpil 7, 2005. Accessed on June 3, 2008.