The milk we consume is adulterated

16 April, 2018


India is one of the world’s largest producers of milk, estimated at 165.40 million metric tonnes in 2016-17. The annual demand for milk by 2022 is estimated to be 210-220 million metric tonnes. But unfortunately, the milk that we consume may be unhealthy as random checking done by government agencies has shown that about 30 per cent of milk sold in the country is adulterated.

This is vital as the state food safety department analysed a total 7717 samples, of which 2307 were found to be ‘non-conforming,’ or adulterated. Mixing water is most common, which dilutes the nutritional value of milk. Contaminated water can cause additional problems. Others, even more deadly methods include adding adulterants like detergent, foreign fat, starch, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), sugar, colour and urea.

Experts say the number of samples collected is infinitesimal when compared with the actual use of milk in every household and larger sample would probably reveal much higher levels of adulteration.

Food safety departments in most states are short-staffed. There are only about 30-40 or 50 food inspectors in each state that is too little given the demand.  Comparatively there are thousands of dairies and groceries in big cities selling dairy products.

Concerned over the increasingly extensive cases of adulteration, the government launched an initiative for supply of pure milk, and the national dairy development board (NDDB) was tasked with standardizing, examining and awarding certifications to milk manufacturing units.

Ministry of agriculture officials said the ‘Quality Mark’ initiative is aimed to enhance consumer confidence in milk and milk products. Last week, Mother Dairy was conferred with “Quality Mark” for all its polypack milk variants.

To increase the production of milk further, the ministry is implementing dairy development schemes to strengthen milk cooperatives in the country. This include National Dairy Plan- Phase-I (NDP-I), National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD) and Dairy Processing Infrastructure Development Fund.

Under NDP-I, 468 sub-projects in 18 States have been approved, with a total outlay of Rs 1,719.70 crore till February 2018. Under the NPDD programme, 66 projects in 24 states with total outlay of Rs 626.697 lakh were approved till February 2018. The Dairy processing and Infrastructure Development Fund (DIDF) was launched in 2017-18 with a total outlay of Rs 10,881 crore. Legal experts say that along with these initiatives, the government should also focus on stricter enforcement in the cases of adulteration.

The issue is directly related to the public health and government should take some serious initiatives to implement the food safety rules. Food adulteration is a bailable offence and the accused have never gets arrested. A Law Commission panel has recommended that sections 272 and 273 of the IPC be amended to make adulteration a serious crime, and depending on the gravity of the offence.

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