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COMPANY REPORT

Seventy per cent of loose milk samples unfit for drinking, states CERC
Saturday, 19 August, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
The Ahmedabad-based Consumer Education and Research Centre’s (CERC) in-house laboratory tested 55 samples of loose milk, and found that 70 per cent of them were unfit for human consumption.

These findings were published in the August-September 2017 issue of Grahak Sathi (its Hindi-language national consumer magazine).

They have dispelled the myth that loose milk is a fresher, healthier and chemical-free alternative.

Alarming findings
Milk quality is undermined by adulteration, contamination and microbial content (presence of germs).

Fifty of the loose milk samples collected to address the concern related to microbial content were from dairies, while the remainder were from door-to-door vendors.

The localities from where the samples were collected were selected in such a way that all parts of Gujarat’s largest city were covered.

They included Asarva, Chandlodiya, Gota, Jamalpur, Memnagar, Motera, Naranpura, Paldi, Ranip, Shahibaug, Shahpur, Thaltej, Vastrapur, Vadaj and Vejalpur.

All the samples were tested for three microbiological parameters – Methylene Blue Reduction Test (MBRT), plate count and coliforms – as per the Indian standards.

Coliforms
To CERC’s alarm, 38 out of the 55 loose samples of milk contained more Coliform bacteria than the permissible limit. The presence of these microorganisms indicates possible faecal contamination.

Coliforms are generally destroyed during pasteurisation. Only if they are absent in 1:100 dilution is the milk of satisfactory quality.

They can cause bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, urinary tract infections and typhoid.

Samples contaminated with them have to be thoroughly boiled or pasteurised before consumption.

Fair to poor grading

Thirty-one of the 55 samples were graded between fair and poor in the two other tests measuring contamination by bacteria which can cause gastroenteritis, food poisoning and intestinal irritation.

As milk is largely consumed by vulnerable groups, such as infants, young children and the elderly, this is a grave concern.

Price difference
The average price of the 500ml samples of loose milk that were tested was Rs 20. The average price of a 500ml pack of branded milk ranges between Rs 20 and Rs 26, depending on the variant (skimmed, toned or full-fat).

The difference in price between packaged pasteurised milk and loose milk is marginal. It is not worth the risk of consuming loose milk.

The problem
India is the largest producer and consumer of milk in the world. However, only 25-30 per cent of the milk is pasteurised and packed by the organised dairy sector.

The remaining milk is either locally consumed or handled by the unorganised sector in an unhygienic manner.

As a result, the consumer receives milk of questionable quality.

Shockingly, a survey conducted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in 2012 found 68 per cent of the milk in the country to be contaminated.

Quality concerns
Adulteration

Milk is commonly diluted with water. This not only reduces its nutritional value, but if contaminated water is used, it can also cause health problems.

Other adulterants include starch, detergents, caustic soda, fertilisers like urea and ammonium sulphate and white paint.

Contamination

Residues of antibiotics and hormones given to cattle get into the milk. Pesticides and heavy metals also find their way into milk. Cattle in urban areas roam the streets foraging for food and end up eating large quantities of plastic. This can make the milk they produce toxic.

Microbial content
Milk is a perfect medium for the growth of microorganisms due to its high nutritive value and high moisture content.

The microbial content is determined by the health of the milch animal (be it a cow or a buffalo), its living conditions, the cleanliness of the people who milk the animal and the storage vessels.

If the animals are not cleaned properly, their waste can make its way into the milk during milking.

Once microorganisms enter the milk, they multiply due to warm ambient temperature resulting in fast deterioration of the product.

Urgent action needed
  • To procure milk we need healthy milch animals. The animals should be kept in clean surroundings and fed nourishing food
  • Hygiene needs to be practiced while milking, collection, storage and distribution
  • Strict action should be taken against those indulging in adulteration
  • Milk and dairy products are sourced from several million farmers across India. However, regulations do not cover these farmers
  • Consumers should be made aware of the hazards of buying loose milk
What consumers can do
  • Avoid raw milk sold loose in local dairies and by door-to-door milk vendors
  • If you do buy raw milk, drink it only after boiling. Boil pasteurised milk too
  • While boiling, keep on stirring. Cool the milk quickly to minimise the loss of vitamins, minerals and protein
  • Store milk in the refrigerator after boiling to minimise bacterial contamination
  • Keep fresh milk cold, sealed (so it won’t absorb other flavours and odours), and in the dark
  • Destroy milk packets before discarding them. Don’t sell them as they are recycled by unscrupulous adulterators
Grahak Sathi’s conclusion
Gone are the days when cattle grazed in lush green fields and you could be assured of getting milk from healthy, well-fed animals.

Today, milch animals – cows and buffaloes – are kept in cramped sheds, knee-deep in mud and dung and suffer from skin diseases and tuberculosis.

They eat garbage and plastic instead of nutritious fodder. Then, comes the lack of hygiene practised while milking, collection, storage and distribution.

You can’t trust local doodhwallas to adhere to the safety standards.

Hence, today, it is vital to buy only packed and pasteurised milk.
 
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