Anyone who knows their way around the kitchen and is familiar with ingredients will tell you that the most integral part of most dishes is the humble salt. Its usefulness is not limited to just savoury food items though. A pinch of salt can bring out the flavour in sweet stuff like chocolate cakes too! It is no wonder then that even our idioms and phrases feature this ingredient a lot (rub salt in a wound, take something with a grain of salt, not worth one’s salt etc).
Which is why all of us sat up and took notice when the safety of Indian table salt was brought into question.
Social media was flooded with concerning reports that alleged adulteration with traces of supposedly ‘carcinogenic’ components like potassium ferrocyanide (PFC). The stories said that a US-based laboratory had found the ‘toxic’ substances in Sambhar Refined Salt at 4.71 mg per kg, in Tata Salt at 1.85 mg per kg and in Tata Salt Lite 1.90 mg per kg.
But what exactly is potassium ferrocyanide and what is its connection with iodised salt?
According to The Times of India, “It is a non-toxic inorganic compound that is potassium salt and forms lemon-yellow monoclinic crystals.” It is used as an anti-caking agent in salt and salt substitutes. Countries like the USA, Australia, New Zealand and some EU nations also utilize it as an added ingredient.
What do food regulatory bodies have to say about Indian table salt?
Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the apex food regulator of India under Ministry of Health & Family Welfare says that if Ferrocyanides are used within the permissible limit of 10 mg/kg, they are safe for consumption. Just to put things in perspective, Codex (International Food Standards) has set the limit at 14 mg/kg. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) reiterates this fact as well.
Ferrocyanides are used as anti-caking agents in processing of salt & are safe for consumption. Test reports quoted in media have shown its presence well within limit of 10 mg/kg, as specified by FSSAI.
This is less than 14 mg/kg specified by Codex (International Food Standards). pic.twitter.com/g4nSu38SSW
— FSSAI (@fssaiindia) June 28, 2019
Several fake news debunking websites have run fact checks on the allegations and this is what they have to say.
Boom Live reveals that the questions were first raised by a competing entrepreneur with a rival product in the market. This website and others like Alt News and SM Hoax Slayer further state that there is a difference between cyanide and PFC and these terms were being used interchangeably to deliberately misinform people. They cite the WHO and the European Food Safety Authority to conclude that there is no cause for alarm and the allegations are false.
So, the next time you try to imitate ‘salt bae’ be rest assured that the ‘desh ka namak’ is healthy and edible.