Adulterated Sago Seized In Tamil Nadu Factory; Learn More

A sago factory near Tamil Nadu’s Attur has been accused of using non-food grade chemicals in their sago production. The Tamil Nadu Food Safety and Drug Administration seized Rs 15.31 lakh worth of sago from the factory. District designated officer Dr R Kathiravan has shared that their tip was about a sago manufacturing factory that was using non-food-grade chemicals to bleach the tapioca white.

Though sago and tapioca have some similar features, they are not the same. Sago and tapioca are both starches; sago is derived from the pith of various tropical palm trees, primarily the sago palm whereas tapioca comes from the cassava plant which is a woody shrub. Sago pearls are typically larger and translucent, with a glossy white appearance and they’re also softer and more tender than tapioca.

The officials found 33 canes of sodium hypochlorite in the factory and also seized 16,200kg of sago. The TNFSDAD officials have temporarily cancelled the licence of the factory for using non-food grade chemicals to bleach the tapioca and starch. 

During processing, the pith of the sago palm is usually extracted, crushed, and then soaked in water. The starch is then collected, dried, and formed into small pearls or granules. Tapioca is cheaper than sago since it’s more readily available. Reports of sago adulteration are not new as there have been a number of complaints and representations regarding the adulteration of tapioca sago with maize starch. 

In 2017, FSSAI issued directions about this issue and shared that products that look similar to sago are being manufactured using maize starch or any other imported starch and not tapioca starch. 

“The FSSAI has deliberated upon the matter and has come to the decision that since the regulations contain standards only for Tapioca sago, therefore the use of any other starch from any other source will be treated as adulteration of sago,” FSSAI said on their platform. Adulterated sago can be identified with some key factors. Let’s find out.

Colour and Texture

Pure sago typically has a translucent appearance and uniform texture. Adulterated sago may have irregularities in colour and texture. It might appear cloudier or have unnatural colourings. Look for consistency in the size and shape of the pearls.

Presence of Foreign Matter

You can always check the sago for any foreign particles, such as dirt, stones, or other debris. Adulterated sago may contain these contaminants due to improper processing and some find matter can be weeded out with a sieve.

Water Test

Place a small amount of sago in a bowl of water. Pure sago pearls should sink to the bottom and remain intact. Adulterated sago may disintegrate, release colour, or float due to added fillers.

You can also do a starch iodine test. Dissolve a small amount of sago in water and add a few drops of iodine solution. Pure sago will turn blue-black due to the presence of starch. If the solution remains unchanged or shows inconsistent colouration, it could indicate adulteration with non-starchy substances.

Unusually Low Prices

If you’re buying packaged sago, it shouldn’t be a problem but if you buy it loose, be cautious of sago sold at significantly lower prices than market averages, as it could indicate adulteration with cheaper fillers. Try purchasing sago from trusted suppliers or retailers with a reputation for selling authentic products.