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Special Report

Food authority backtracks

1 Comments
Feb 15, 2012 | From the print edition

Says milk adulterated but not unsafe for consumption

imageSix states and a union territory feed their people milk that does not meet the standards set by India’s food regulatory body at all. Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Daman & Diu are the “100 per cent non-conforming” states. In Delhi, 70 per cent of the samples failed the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) test. Yet, the authority claims there is no danger in drinking the milk.

On January 2, FSSAI uploaded on its website the summary report of a snap-shot survey it had conducted across the country. Results of the National Survey on Milk Adulteration, 2011, were startling, leaving the food authority facing a volley of angry questions from all quarters.

Backtracking on its claims, the food authority clarified in a press release on January 12: “Non-conforming to standards does not mean the milk is unsafe for consumption.”

“Most milk samples did not adhere to the fat and the solid-not-fat (SNF) percentages laid down in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. They are sub-standard, but not necessarily unsafe,” it added.

What’s in your milk?

Of the 1,791 samples tested, 70 per cent were adulterated and did not meet the standards the Act sets. Nearly 14 per cent contained detergent, 548 had skimmed milk powder and 477 had glucose. Maximum adulteration—nearly 46 per cent—was because of SNF. Solids like vitamins, minerals and proteins are classified as SNF. Higher the SNF content better is the quality of milk, and therefore the cost. Traders add urea and carbohydrates like starch, potato powder, wheat flour, blotting paper, sugar and glucose which increase the lactometer reading.

Home checks
 
  How to test adulteration in milk
For Neutraliser
In 5 ml of milk add 5 ml of alcohol followed by about five drops of rosalic acid. If the colour changes to pinkish red, the milk is adulterated with sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate and is unfit for human consumption

For Urea
Mix 5 ml of milk with 5 ml of paradimethyl amino benzaldehyde. If the solution turns yellow, the milk is adulterated with urea

For Hydrogen Peroxide
Add five drops of paraphenylene diamine to 5 ml milk and shake it well. Adulterated milk will turn blue

For Formalin
In a test tube containing 10 ml of milk add 5 ml of concentrated sulphuric acid from the sides without disturbing it. A violet or blue ring will appear at the intersection of the two layers indicating presence of formalin

For Sugar
To 10 ml of milk add 5 ml of hydrochloric acid and 0.1 g of resorcinol in a test tube. Shake it well and place the test tube in boiling water for five minutes. Adulterated milk will turn red

For Starch
Boil 3 ml of milk and then cool to room temperature. Add two to three drops of 1 per cent iodine solution. It will turn blue.

For Glucose
Dip a diacetic strip in milk for about one minute. If the strip changes colour, the milk contains glucose

 
 
 

Packaged milk performed better than milk sold loose. With only 30 per cent non-compliance, samples collected from rural areas also fared better than urban centres.

A trader, who claims to have stopped adulterating milk, says salt, detergents and glucose increase milk’s thickness and viscosity, and starch prevents it from curdling. Neutralisers like sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, ammonia, carbon trioxide (carbonate) and other alkalis are used to increase the pH value of badly preserved milk.

The immediate effect of drinking adulterated milk with urea and detergent is gastroenteritis. But long-term effects are far more serious. The adulterants irreversibly damage organs. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, some of the adulterants can cause fatal diseases like cancer and heart ailments.

Taking suo moto cognisance of FSSAI’s report, the Delhi High Court has asked the Centre and the Delhi government to explain why 70 per cent of the milk samples lifted from the capital were adulterated. They have been asked to submit their report by January 25.

Cornered FSSAI saves face

The food authority has now instructed big dairy houses to brand their milk correctly. When added with skimmed milk powder or glucose, the milk should be labelled “reconstituted”. But skimmed milk powder has been added to milk for long to reduce its fat content, says N R Bhasin, president of Indian Dairy Association, which comprises milk manufacturers in the organised sector. “Called toned milk, it is not low in nutrition. Only its fat content is reduced by 1.5-2 per cent. It is not hazardous to health,” he adds.

Adulteration can be hazardous only when milk is diluted with water contaminated by pesticides or heavy metals, says Asim Choudhary, director of FSSAI.

The summary report states one of the aims of the survey was to identify common adulterants in milk—fat, vegetable fat, SNF, neutraliser, acidity, hydrogen peroxide, sugar, starch, glucose, urea, salt, detergent and skimmed milk powder. But it later claimed that it was not the commonly occurring contaminants they were targetting, but were reporting only “deviation from standard”. The deviation was found the highest—46.8 per cent—in fat and SNF content.

Keeping the full report under wraps, the food authority has not yet disclosed the quantity of each adulterant found. FSSAI also stated that formalin, or formaldehyde, was found in some samples, but argued that “it is allowed for preservation”.

Bhasin refutes the claim. Adding formalin to milk is against the law, he says. Known to be a carcinogen, the chemical is used for preservation and as a disinfectant. It is illegally used by adulterants to increase milk’s shelf life.

FSSAI made one more change in its claim. The summary report stated that eight per cent of the samples contained detergent. It attributed presence of detergent to lack of hygiene and sanitation in milk handling and packaging. Within 10 days, the food authority increased the figure to 14 per cent. However, it did not explain the change.

Blame game begins

The FSSAI has passed the buck to the states. But the states blame the food authority for a half-baked report.

FSSAI is responsibile for keeping a check on milk’s purity. It is, therefore, preparing an advisory for states to crack down on violators. But the states have no idea who the violators are. “They have not shared the report with us. We have no idea where they collected the samples from. The survey should have been sent to the states first,” says Ashish Kumar, designated officer, Food Safety Authority in Bihar.

Slamming FSSAI’s claims, Kumar says they conduct regular checks but have never found detergent or urea. “Moreover, synthetic milk is found in Meerut and Ghaziabad, not in Bihar,” he adds. FSSAI is aware of it, yet did not collect samples from Meerut or Ghaziabad.

Delhi, too, is disappointed with the report. “None of our samples had problems with either fat or SNF content,” says S K Saxena, Food Safety Commissioner in Delhi. “Nor was detergent or urea found in our milk. The samples had skimmed milk powder. This is added during summers when supply falls. The samples were collected in April and May. Skimmed milk powder is not hazardous to health,” he adds.

About 90 per cent of Delhi’s requirement of 70 million litre milk is met by brands like DMS, Mother Dairy, Parag, Saras and Gopaljee. Yet, only five samples of the 50 collected were packaged milk, says Saxena.

“The authority has created panic,” says Bhasin. The problem is with the unorganised sector, but that is not how it has been reported, he adds. “If clarifications are not issued soon, it will be a huge setback for the good milk production this year owing to good monsoon and winter,” he adds.

AddThis

Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006
It is comprised of two components i.e. (a) Safety and (b) Standards

(a) Safety:
Safety parameters prescribed under FSS Act, 2006 are as under:
(i) Microbial contamination (Prescribed in appendix B)
(ii) Pesticide residues ( Prescribed under Chapter 2.3)
(iii) Veterinary Drugs ( Prescribed under Chapter 2.3.2)
(iv) Metal Contaminations ( Prescribed under Chapter 2.2)
(v) Aflatoxin M1( Prescribed under Chapter 2.2.1)
(vi) Melamine in Milk (Due to adulteration Melamine in milk & Milk products, the import of these products is banned from China. No efforts was made to find out whether Indian Industries are using melamine to increase the nitrogen content in Milk & Milk products)
In the survey, above parameters related to Safety have not been examined at all, which are essential Safety parameters to declare the Milk Safe

(b) Standards

(1) Milk samples had been analyzed by the FSSAI / State Govt. Laboratories, which has not obtained NABL accreditation in the area of Milk analysis till date as mentioned in Section 43 of the FSS Act 2006.
(2) MOHFW rejected the Centre for Science & Environment report (published in 2006) on Pesticide residue analysis in Soft drinks (carbonated beverages manufactured by Pepsi & Coca-Cola) because CSE Laboratory was not accredited from NABL to conduct such tests.

(3) JPC ( Joint Parliament Committee) recommended in its report (to avoid panic reactions to revelations) submitted in year 2004 in Para 4.78(4 ) which reads as under reads as under:
“There must be code of conduct for disseminating the results of an investigation either from a NGO organized or from a
Laboratory or anyone else. Today for example if a survey is done or a study conducted, or an analysis with respect to spurious food item is suddenly taken up, there is no code of conduct for reporting it in an orderly fashion. In order to avoid such a situation, the committee recommends that results must be validated so as to ensure transparency”
Till date no code of conduct is formed by the MOHFW though for this meeting was called in 2007. Without proper code of conduct, any survey conducted by the FSSAI has no relevance but just to
create the unnecessary panic in the country.

4 Various types of detergents are available in the market. Each group has specific method of analysis. From the survey report, it is not clear which method has been adopted for analysis of detergent.
(Copy of Wikipedia is enclosed for ready reference). Hence the report of the presence or absence of detergent cannot be relied upon. Copy enclosed and marked as Annexure-IV.
5. Further survey report cannot be relied upon as the methodologies to be adopted for quantitative determination of urea, test for various
detergents, neutralizers etc. were not circulated before carrying out the survey on milk and even competency of each laboratory was not examined after conducting Inter Laboratory Analytical Quality
Assurance Programme, which is one of the pre-requisite for such type of National survey work to find out adulteration in the country.
Even the method of sampling was not circulated before conducting all India based huge survey.

6. The quality of water added in the milk will not be potable water. Further, addition of water itself makes the Milk unsafe food because balance of vitamins and minerals present naturally is disturbed. So as per definition given under Section 3 (ZZ) No.(IV) and (v) of FSS Act, it will be treated as unsafe food, which reads as under:
(iv) By the substitution of any inferior or cheaper substances whether wholly or in part or
(v) By the addition of any substance directly or as an ingredient which is not permitted.

7. It is observed that Vision of the Authority to prescribe Science based regulations/ standards in the FSS Act. On perusal, it is observed the regulations/ Standards are just copied from PFA and re-arranged as Regulations.

8. On Page 3 of the report published by USDA Foreign Agricultural ervice (GAIN Report No.: IN1104) observed regarding FSS Act are as under:
“------- However these documents are essentially a retitled version of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules 1954 and its amendments, without any changes.”

9 Further, it is evident from the fact that Act was implemented from 5th August 2011. It took 3 years to prescribe the so called Science based Standards. After expiry of 6 months advertisement has came in the Newspaper that comments are invited for the revision of the FSS Act, which had been prepared after three years long deliberation
Hence it is proposed that FSSAI may be allowed to conduct any survey in larger Public interest till guidelines for code of conduct for National Survey is finalized as recommended by the JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) in the year 2004.

6 February 2012
Posted by
satya Prakash

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