Difference Between Adulteration and Contamination

Adulteration vs Contamination

Adulteration and contamination are terms that are commonly used with regards to consumables such as food, medicine etc. Both imply illegal practices which are against rules and regulations. It is because of these similarities that these two terms tend to be used alternatively in many contexts. However, this must not be done so as adulteration and contamination are two words that are useful in defining different contexts under different conditions. 

What is Adulteration? 

Adulteration can be defined as the addition of adulterants in otherwise safe substances such as food, beverages, fuel etc. What is commonly known as adulterants is a substance found within another substance that is not legally or otherwise allowed to exist within them. Adulterants however are different to permitted food additives which is not illegal or is dangerous to do so. Some examples for adulteration would be the addition of roasted chicory roots to coffee, water in diluting alcohol or milk, apple jellies in place of more expensive jellies, cutting agents in illicit drugs such as shoe polish in hashish, lactose in cocaine etc. 

Adulterated food is considered to be unhealthy, unsafe and impure, and adulteration has come to be a legal term that food products that fail to meet state or federal standards. Adulteration is practiced by merchants for the sole reason of obtaining profits and, as a result, unwholesome food that is harmful to the human system is being produced. 

What is Contamination? 

Contamination can be defined as the presence of unwanted yet minor contaminants in a substance. This can be the physical body, a material, environment etc. However, in different contexts, contamination is defined differently. In food and medicinal chemistry, contamination refers to the presence of harmful intrusions such as pathogens or toxins. This directly involved the deterioration of the quality of food due to chemical, physical, biological or environmental factors. Physical aspects include rats, insects, and other animals that can cause hard to the food items while chemical factors would include the presence of harmful chemicals such as lead or mercury. What falls under environmental factors would be heat, humidity and other factors that can directly affect the quality of food while biological factors would include the growth of micro organisms such as bacteria, fungi etc. 

In environmental chemistry, contamination is considered to be synonymous with pollution, while the term radioactive contamination may refer to the presence of radioactive substances where its presence is not desired or was not intended. However in forensic science, contamination refers to material such as hair or skin gained from sources that are not linked to the ongoing investigation. 

What is the difference between Contamination and Adulteration? 

While both are terms that refer to unfavourable conditions with regards to substances that are used in day-to-day life, adulteration and contamination share certain differences that set them apart. 

• Adulteration stands for the addition of certain ingredients that are not legally permitted in them. Contamination stands for the deterioration of the quality of the substance.

• Adulteration is performed as a practice by certain merchants to obtain more profit. Contamination is not performed as a practice.

• Adulteration is mostly man-done. Contamination can happen naturally as well as a result of environmental factors such as heat, humidity etc.