dulteration in milk is not a new thing. I remember when I was a small child, a milk man used to carry those typical measurements and a big milk can on a bicycle to deliver milk door-to-door. My grandmother used to pour a few drops on the floor by questioning the milkman “Aaj bhi doodh me paani milaya kya? Doodh patla lag raha hai.” (Have you added water in the milk as its consistency is thin). This was a repetitive question to the milkman. Since childhood, we knew that the milk is most commonly diluted with water – this not only reduces its nutritional value but contaminated water can also cause additional health problems. But as the time changed and we adopted modern ways of storing or packing milk, the adulteration has gone on dangerous levels. The other adulterants used are mainly detergents, foreign fats, starch, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), sugar, urea, pond water, salt, maltodextrin, sodium carbonate, formalin, and ammonium sulfate.
It has been a cause of concern for both the Government and the Dairy Industry. The Indian Council of Medical Research has reported, “Milk adulterants have hazardous health effects. The detergent in milk can cause food poisoning and other gastrointestinal complications. Its high alkaline level can also damage body tissue and destroy proteins. Other synthetic components can cause impairments, heart problems, cancer or even death. While the immediate effect of drinking milk adulterated with urea, caustic soda and formalin is gastroenteritis, the long-term effects are far more serious.”
Contaminated milk continues to be sold in Maharashtra despite crackdown measures taken by authorities. The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (fda), had, in a study, found that 20 per cent of the milk is adulterated. Though the study prompted immediate action and licences of 21 dairies to be suspended, yet, there is no respite. In another study, the NGO Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI) Mumbai, found that over 37 per cent samples were either sub-standard or unfit for human consumption.
India produces a little over 105 million tonnes (mt) of milk annually and out of this, Mumbai consumes 1.65 mt. Of that, 0.61 million tonnes is substandard & adulterated. The problem is not restricted to just within the state. In 1999, Ahmedabad-based Consumer Education and Research Centre tested 28 brands of packed milk and two samples of loose milk from Ambawadi and Ambica, local dairies. All the 30 brands failed in microbiological parameters specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Most brands had coliform and EColi. Twenty-one samples failed fat content standards and four failed solid non-fat parameters. Preservatives were found in 12 samples and pesticide residues in 27. Heavy metals such as copper, lead, zinc, arsenic, cadmium and mercury were also found. Milk from Gujarat comes into Maharashtra.
Milk adulteration takes place in the open in areas like Antop Hill, Saki Naka, Kurla, Kurar village, Dahisar Baithi chawl and Dharavi in Mumbai. In September 2005, the then deputy chief minister R R Patil along with the then Mumbai police crime branch had seized 10,000 litres of adulterated milk from the slums in Kapaswadi (Andheri), Khar Danda, Vatsala Naik Nagar (Kurla) and Babhai Naka (Borivali) and arrested 39 people who were charged with adulteration and forgery. Later on, they all were released on bail by paying some fine and back to the same business. The laws are weak and that is the reason such practices are not stoppable. Moreover, FDA does not have a dedicated food testing laboratory of its own. It has asked the state government to set up six such laboratories in six divisional headquarters. The FDA now has to depend on the state public health department laboratory in Mumbai and Pune and MCGM’s laboratory at Dadar where testing sometimes takes more than the stipulated 40 days. About two years ago, the state legislature had come with a proposal to make milk adulteration a non-bailable offence but it is still in the draft stage.
Reports of substandard and adulterated food frequent the front pages of newspapers. Samples of items we consume daily like milk, pulses, oils, vegetables, sugar, among many others have been rated sub-standard. While it is difficult to track the production process and locate the item’s source, simple tests can help you distinguish a pure sample from an adulterated one.
To find out water in milk, put a drop of milk on a polished, slanting surface. Pure milk either stays or flows slowly leaving a white trail behind. Milk adulterated with flow immediately without leaving a mark.
To find out detergent in milk, take 5-10 millilitres (ML) of milk sample and equal quantity of water and shake the mixture thoroughly. If the milk is adulterated with detergent, it forms dense lather pure milk will have a thin layer of foam.
Detecting starch in milk and milk products, boil 2-3 ML of the sample (milk, khoya, chenna or paneer) with 5 ML of water for other ghee and butter. Water need not be added. Add 2-3 drops of tincture of iodine after letting it cool
The formation of blue colour indicates the presence of starch. Food adulteration is a global concern and developing countries are at higher risk associated with it due to lack of monitoring and policies. However, this is one of the most common phenomena that have been overlooked in many countries. Unfortunately, in contrast to common belief, milk adulterants can pose serious health hazards leading to fatal diseases. Just reading the news and condemning the act is not enough, we as responsible citizens need to be more alert and smart in diagnosing what we receive and consume.
Stay healthy and stay fit.
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