The results of a first-of-its-kind survey on milk by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) reveal something startling—most Indians are consuming detergents and other contaminants through milk.
The National Survey on Milk Adulteration 2011, a snap shot survey, was conducted to check the contaminants in milk, especially liquid milk, throughout the country. The study found that due to lack of hygiene and sanitation in milk handling and packaging, detergents (used for cleansing) are not removed and find their way into the milk. Many a time, detergents are deliberately added to milk. The survey report notes that the consumption of milk with detergents in hazardous to health. About eight per cent samples were found to have detergents. Other contaminants like urea, starch, glucose and formalin, too, are used as adulterants. FSSAI tested a total of 1,791 samples.
Packaged milk safer
Water, it turns out, is the most common adulterant in milk. It reduces the nutritional value of milk, and if contaminated, water poses a health risk to consumers. Samples were collected from 28 states and five union territories. The worst performers were Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Mizoram, Jharkhand and Daman & Diu, where non-conformity with food safety standards was 100 per cent. The most common reason for non-compliance was found to be the large gap between demand and supply; the adulterants are mixed to increase the milk quantity. All of the 250 samples collected from the non-conforming eastern states contained detergent. Samples from Goa and Puducherry were 100 per cent compliant.
Nearly 70 per cent samples did not conform to the standards set for milk. The problems were more pronounced in the milk sold loose as compared to the packaged milk. Samples collected from rural areas fared better with only 30 per cent non-compliance as compared to urban centres.
Of the total non-compliant samples, the highest, nearly 46 per cent, belonged to the category of low Solid Not Fat (SNF), and this was due to dilution of milk with water. Higher the SNF, better the quality of milk. Skimmed milk powder, generally used to increase volume of milk in lean season, was present in nearly 548 samples; of these 477 samples contained glucose.
Apart from fat, SNF, skimmed milk powder and glucose, the survey also looked for the presence of neutralisers, acidity, hydrogen peroxide, sugar, starch, urea, salt, detergent, formalin and vegetable salt. Studies show that adulterants like salt, detergents and glucose add to the thickness and viscosity of the milk, while starch prevents curdling of milk. The Indian Council of Medical Research, in one of its reports, states detergents cause food poisoning and gastro-intestinal complications. The other synthetic compounds impair the functioning of various organs of the body, cause heart problems, cancer, and sometimes death. The immediate effect of drinking adulterated milk containing urea, caustic soda and formalin is gastroenteritis, but the long term effects are known to be far more serious.
FSSAI has asked all its state and union territories enforcement divisions to strengthen checks on milk producers to ensure they are complying with the Food Safety and Standards Act.
Water, most common adulterant
- Water turned out to be the most common adulterant in milk. It reduces the nutritional value of milk. If contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals, water poses a health risk to consumers
- Of the total non-compliant samples, the highest, nearly 46 per cent, belonged to the category of low Solid Not Fat (SNF) and this was due to dilution of milk with water
- About eight per cent samples were found to have detergents
- Skimmed milk powder was present in nearly 548 samples, out of which 477 samples contained glucose