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Rise of fake synthetic paneer in India, How to identify?

Paneer, a staple in Indian cuisine, has recently come under scrutiny due to the discovery of counterfeit and contaminated versions in the market. Authorities, such as FSSAI, have seized and disposed of counterfeit paneer to protect public health.

By Ground report
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Rise of fake synthetic paneer in India, How to identify?

Photo credit: Nithyasrm/Wikimedia Commons

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Paneer often hailed as a nutritious choice for vegetarians due to its protein and vitamin content, faced scrutiny recently. Authorities seized 1300 kg of counterfeit paneer and disposed of it along the Mumbai-Delhi Expressway for public safety. In April 2024, FSSAI tests revealed contamination in 47 out of 168 paneer and khoya products.

Instead of using genuine milk, many fraud people employ milk powder, water, lemon, and acetic acid to produce fake paneer. To enhance its authenticity, they incorporate palm oil for a glossy appearance.

Although the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) implements numerous tests and protocols to detect adulteration in milk and its products, you can also conduct a quality check for store-bought paneer in your own home.

To safeguard our health and consume only high-quality food products, it's crucial to exercise caution when examining each item. Upon purchasing paneer from stores and returning home, it's essential to follow a few steps to ensure its authenticity before preparing and consuming dishes made with it. In today's context, verifying the purity of paneer before enjoying meals made with it is of utmost importance.

Hacks to spot fake paneer

Iodine Test: Begin by boiling the paneer in a pan. Once boiled, add a few drops of iodine tincture to the paneer. If the paneer turns blue upon contact with iodine, it likely contains artificial additives. If the colour remains unchanged, it indicates purity.

The Dal Test: After boiling, allow the paneer to cool in water. Then, add some toor dal to the water and let it sit for 10 minutes. If the water takes on a light red hue, it suggests potential contamination of the paneer. If there is no change in color, the paneer is safe to consume.

Texture & Taste Test: Before purchasing, assess the texture and smell of the paneer. Genuine paneer typically has a firm, crumbly texture and a mild, milky aroma. If the paneer feels excessively soft or sticky, or emits a sour odour, it may be synthetic. Additionally, authentic paneer should taste creamy and slightly tangy, whereas synthetic varieties may lack depth of flavour or exhibit an artificial taste.

Appearance: Authentic paneer often has a slightly off-white colour with a matte finish. In contrast, synthetic paneer may appear overly white and shiny due to the presence of additives like palm oil.

Behavior when heated: When heated, genuine paneer tends to retain its shape and texture, while synthetic versions may melt or become mushy more quickly due to the inclusion of starches or fillers.

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