Amal Chatterjee
9 min readApr 6, 2019

Source : Google photo of sweets in India

Adulteration is very common today and the most commonly adulterated food product is milk. Adulteration lowers the quality of food and sometimes, toxic chemicals are also added which can be hazardous to health. The products are marketed in a tricky manner, which is usually cheating the customers.

Synopsis : We are assailed by the cheaters everyday in our life somewhere so it is important that we are all aware of such people and take some preventive measures that can go a long way to protect us from them. I suggest a few such measures here.

A friend of mine gave me a packet of sweets in Kolkata before we were leaving for the airport so we brought it to the Philippines but only after a day found out that the sweets were mixed with flour that hardened the sweets like stones so we had to throw them away. It was supposed to be made of pure milk. I did not have the courage to tell our friend that he was cheated to spare him hurt feelings.

When a milkman was seen delivering fresh milk door to door in England, he was asked by an Indian why he was not making profit by adding some water to the fresh milk. The milkman was very surprised at this sinister suggestion and retorted that Sir, in this country we do not do such things so you should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting that we adulterate our milk that our children drink. Would you give your children anything less than pure?

My mother used to send me to the creamery to buy fresh cream that she boiled to make ghee every month. This is the pure milk cream that she made wonderful ghee of. But at the creamery I used to see all the milk vendors with their large milk containers waiting in line to sell the cream to the creamery and later sell the cream less milk to the unsuspecting buyers. This way they made double profit.

We now a days face a tsunami of fake products and adulterated food and even medicine. Once I was attending a government run workshop on some agricultural products they were promoting and bought some coffee but was very surprised to find that they had mixed burned saw dust in it.

They mix molasses with honey and sell it as pure here in the Philippines. They pour red dye into the gills of fish to make it look fresh when it has gone off. They ripen fruits and vegetables using carbide that leaves a bitter taste in fruits and may have carcinogenic consequences. They spray toxic chemicals on strawberries and sell them in the market without any warning.

But selling the meat of an animal that has died of natural causes is perhaps the worst offence people can make. You never know what you are buying because there is no guarantee anymore of purity of products.

I have seen how they inject a banned chemical into cows and buffaloes in India that prevents the animal to withhold the milk but this substance is banned by the government because it is carried in the milk and causes cancer. There are many laws to protect the rights of consumers but who implements these laws ? I have seen myself how these laws are ignored by the milk vendors because there are no health inspectors.

The word cheating is associated with the unscrupulous businessmen because it seems that they will cheat you whenever there is a possibility to do so. It starts with the rigged balances that give you less weight than what you pay for and short measuring meters that give you less length of clothes but charge you more.

The tampered weights used in measuring is also common in some countries while the business people constantly come up with new schemes of cheating you, robbing you and give you less than what you pay for. Here in the Philippines the most common way of cheating is to shortchange you when you are in a hurry and do not count your change.

My wife has caught them cheating several times because she always counts her change and demands correct change. So they say that they are poor in math and often miscalculate the correct change but how come they never overpay you? The supermarket grocery girls often punch twice the item when they should punch only once, the bus or jeepney drivers often say that they do not have small change so the passenger is shortchanged and the maids sent to buy grocery steal part of the money.

When dishonesty becomes a part of the culture then you start feeling besieged by the cheaters everyday no matter where you go and what you buy. How can anyone be alert all the time ? This constant worry of being cheated starts to affect the average person who simply wants to get what he pays for and nothing less.

It is as if you are under constant surveillance and have to look behind your shoulder all the time to see who is following you. Its psychological impact on a person can be devastating who loses his peace of mind.

In some countries like India where cheating is rampant, the government now orders all packaged products to have printed retail price on it be it even a matchbox and punishes those who overcharge but the business people find ways to beat the system and mix water in the milk and do many other things to cheat. The most common way of cheating is to mix poor quality rice with good quality rice and charge you more.

Once we were cheated by a shopkeeper in Delhi who eagerly gave us fresh cashews to taste that was good and sold us packets of cashews that they had extracted the oil from. They sell the oil of cashews, pistachios and other nuts that fetches a high price and sell the tasteless nuts to unsuspecting buyers like us. If you are visiting South India, do not buy cashews they sell in sealed non transparent plastic bags because they stuff them with rotten cashews. In the railway stations they will try to sell you basket full of oranges with good oranges at the top and rotten oranges at the bottom thus cheating the train passengers.

Did you know that the business people are usually not admitted to anyone’s home in India? It is because people do not trust them. My mother used to buy fish from an itinerant vendor who only had some stones as weights so we never knew if the stones had correct weight. It reminds me of the movie Karate kid when Mr. Miyagi found out that the weights used by the vendors in Okinawa market that were supplied by a criminal who controlled the market were made of paris plaster and painted black. It was just a movie and may not be true but the weight tampering goes on everywhere.

Then there is a tsunami of fake products sold as Gucci and Prada etc. made in some cheap back alley workshop employing slave labor by dishonest businessmen who then sell them openly. If you go to Shenzhen malls in China, you will be shown fake Rolex watches for twenty dollars that look real. The women there are so aggressive that they will not let you pass by and insist that you bargain the price with them.

The Italians who sell fake Rayban and numerous other things just out side Termini in Rome and in various other locations are not so aggressive like those Chinese women but they are selling fake products openly that some people buy. They are very quick to gather their goods they spread on a sheet whenever a policeman is seen coming their way and often drop a few things in a hurry to run away. But they are like sparrows in a wheat field that fly away at the slightest danger but always come back when the coast is clear.

Once I was cashing some money at a bank in Paris when a Frenchman said to me that the black market rate for dollar was much higher than the bank rate so I was foolish to go to the bank but I ignored him. The black market money changers will hound you and follow you like a pest if they know that you are a foreigner and want to change some money on the street. They will entice you with a much higher rate and shortchange you by quickly counting the local money , take your dollars and run away before you can count twenty. Others will wait and watch someone who is changing money at a legal pawnshop and then follow the person to rob him in a dark alley somewhere.

The adulteration, cheating, shortchanging and deceitful behavior is often attributed to the dark nature of human beings who are not shy of doing such things because their conscience does not bother them. It is also easier to cheat a stranger than a person who is known to them.

One way to avoid cheating is to patronize the same store or vendor to develop the mutual trust over a long period of time but this works only in your local neighborhood.

The fake medicines are the worst of all products that threaten the lives of people. Because the real medicines are so expensive, poor people buy the fake medicines not knowing that they are harmful and may cause them serious illness later. These fake medicines are sold openly in many countries where the regulations are lax and the vendors do a brisk business. Who makes these medicines, where and how they enter the local market is a big question that requires answers. Often criminal gangs are involved in the import and sale of such dubious products.

I have seen the snake oil peddlers in India who will try to convince you of their product that they label as cure all ailments oil that some stupid people buy but by and large they are a dying breed. The new educated young generation does not believe them so eventually they will disappear or seek other ways to defraud people with other fake things.

We face numerous challenges everyday breathing polluted air, eating adulterated food, drinking fruit juice laced with carcinogenic preservatives, buying fruits that are sprayed with toxic chemicals, inhaling secondhand smoke in public places where people keep on smoking like chimneys, using unclean public toilets in malls and picking up germs so the list is long and no one is spared.

But not all is lost to those who take precautions. My wife rarely buys canned products that use additives and preservatives that are harmful to your health. We never buy and use MSG ( mono sodium glutamate ) that people use in their food but one day we caught our maid of secretly using MSG in our food and promptly fired her. She said that the food is tasteless without MSG but did not believe our reason. We were happy to get rid of her.

You should only buy fish that is alive , meat that has the stamp of the health inspector, wash all fruits and vegetable , look at the expiry date on the packaging before buying anything, buy only fresh roasted coffee beans and have it ground before you in the shop , buy only sealed bottles of imported honey if you like honey, buy only fresh milk from Australia or New Zealand that are guaranteed to be pure. There are numerous things one can do to protect oneself from the unscrupulous business people.

Some religions encourage their followers to observe strict code of conduct all the time so cheaters are punished by caning or even cutting their hands off to discourage such behaviors so by and large the Muslim countries suffer less of dishonesty than in other countries where the laws are not so strict in the implementation.

It is a fact that there are always people who want to cheat you in any way they can so all you can do is to guard yourself and be alert. I have brought some cheaters to the authorities in Saigon and in Mali to get justice so please do not tolerate injustice and report cheating to someone who may do something about them. There are good people who will listen to you and do something to redress the situation only if you complain to them like I did in Saigon and in Mali.

It is impossible to control the cheaters everywhere in any country even if their governments have good intentions so it is our duty to be always on guard.

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