September-19: COVER STORY

Say no to loose cumin. 66% were insect infected 

Branded Cumin though higher in price, is unadulterated

The spice box in an Indian kitchen would be incomplete without Cumin, or jeera. The seeds which have a distinctive flavour are also used as a household remedy for tummy woes, nausea, bloating and constipation.

cvrstryCumin is available in both branded packs as well as loose in the market. The issue of adulteration is a major concern with loose food products in the market. Adulteration of food is addition or subtraction of any substance to or from food, so that the natural composition and quality of food substance is affected. Adulterated food can affect health and deprive you of nutrients essential for proper growth and development.

In our earlier test reports on loose chilli powder, published in Grahak Sathi (June-July 2016), approximately 33% of the samples taken up for testing were found to be of poor quality. We tested 12 samples of loose cumin. We also tested samples of three branded Cumin for comparison.

The results were shocking as most loose samples had some sort of adulteration. Though the branded samples were higher in price than the loose, they were free from any adulteration.


  • Only one out of the 12 loose samples was free from all adulterants tested
  • Eight out of 12 samples showed signs of them being eaten by insects
  • The loose samples were 60% lower in price as compared to the branded. The price difference is considerable, but so is the quality.


12 samples of loose cumin samples procured from various areas of Ahmedabad were tested by CERC’s in-house laboratory. For comparison, three branded samples – Catch Premium Jeera, G.M. Brand (SP) Gold Jeera and Patanjali – were also included. The samples were tested for appearance, taste and odour. Presence of moulds, insects, extraneous matter like lumps, stones, grit was checked. The samples were also checked if they had shrivelled and immature seeds, and damaged, discoloured or had insect infected seeds. We also checked for presence of other seeds and if the seeds were coloured with charcoal. 


Taste and Flavour – The cumin should have the characteristic pleasant taste, flavour, and aroma, and should be free from musty odour. We also tested the samples to check if they are free from added colouring matter.

Moulds and Insects – The samples were tested for any visible insects and moulds and contamination by rodents.

Extraneous Matter – The presence of dust, dirt, stones, and lumps of earth, chaff, stem or straw was tested in all the samples.

Other Seeds – We checked for the presence of edible seeds other than cumin

Damaged, Discoloured and Insect Infected Seeds – We tested if the samples are damaged or discoloured which would affect their quality. The samples were also tested for seeds showing signs of bores which indicate that they have been eaten by insects.

Shrivelled and Immature Seeds – We checked for proportion of seeds that have not been properly developed. 


  • Most of the loose samples tested (10 out of 12) had extraneous matter like earthy lumps and wooden sticks present in them. These samples also contained shrivelled and immature seeds. Samples from Asarwa and Gomtipur were free from both of these. (See table for details)
  • Only one out of the 12 samples of loose cumin was found to be free of all adulterants
  • All the three branded samples – Catch, GM and Patanjali were free from any adulteration.
  • Samples from Bapunagar, Juhapura and Gomtipur were found to contain some other seeds in them.
  • Samples from 8 locations – Maninagar, Navrangpura, Bapunagar, Vatva, Odhav, Juhapura, Shilaj and Naroda GIDC – were found with damaged, discoloured and insect infected seeds.
  • All the twelve loose samples tested were found to be free from adulteration with moulds, insects and black powder or added colour. 


The price of loose cumin samples ranged from Rs. 30 to Rs. 50, while branded ranged between Rs. 75 to Rs. 113. The loose samples were 60% lower in price as compared to the branded. The price difference is considerable, but so is the quality. Most of the loose samples were found to be of poor quality, in contrast the branded samples met with the quality parameters.                                                                                                                                                         


  • A substance is added which depreciates or injuriously affects it
  • Cheaper or inferior substances are substituted wholly or in part
  • Any valuable or necessary constituent has been wholly or in part removed
  • It is an imitation
  • It is coloured or otherwise treated, to improve its appearance or if it contains any added substance injurious to health
  • For whatever reasons the quality is below the Standard


Stones and sand, if present, would not only give a bad mouthfeel but also have an adverse effect on the teeth and soft lining of the digestive tract. Filth in any form can be a health hazard, as it may contain disease producing micro-organisms. Consuming such adulterated food may lead to diarrhoea or stomach infection.


Sprinkle little cumin in a bowl of water and keep it aside for ten minutes.

  • If there are wood shavings, they will float
  • If there is any added colour it will change the colour of the water
  • Adulterated seeds when wet and rubbed in hands will leave black or brown colour


  • Cumin is an excellent source of dietary fiber and essential minerals such as iron, calcium and antioxidant vitamins. Thus it is very good for lactating mothers.
  • It is believed to be rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants, and is also known to be antibacterial and antiseptic.
  • Cumin also has potential antidiabetic properties. A 2005 study published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition confirmed that cumin may aid hypoglycemia.


The regulatory bodies and the enforcement agencies need to take up the matter of adulteration urgently in order to avoid health scares and also economic loss of consumers. CERC will be sending a representation to the authorities urging them to:

  • Ensure implementation of regulations that prevent adulteration
  • Test and monitor food products that are sold loose regularly
  • Raise consumer awareness about adulteration and food safety 


The results show that over 80% of the loose cumin samples were found to be sub-standard. All the three branded samples, though higher in price than the loose samples, conformed to the standards. Therefore, it is advisable to use packaged food products which are in accordance with the required norms for labelling etc. Spices and condiments including cumin come under the Agmark Scheme of Inspection & Marking. So it is recommended to consume Agmark products that are assured of purity and quality.

cumins table1

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