We’re always told to drink milk for all its benefits - it’s a common sight to see moms running after their kids to finish that glass of milk.
Not just kids for that matter. They say that one can never be too old to reap the benefits of drinking milk. But is our milk as healthy as we perceive it to be?
Two out of every three Indians...
drink milk adulterated with detergent, caustic soda, urea, and paint. That's what the Union Minister for Science and Technology, Harsh Vardhan had told the Lok Sabha in 2016.
He was quoting a nationwide survey conducted by FSSAI, India’s food regulator. Recently, an Animal Welfare Board report revealed that 68.7% of the milk production in the country including milk byproducts are found to be adulterated.
No matter what the real numbers are, the fact is that there are possible adulterants in your milk. Milk often travels long distances from the farms to your glass and people meddle with milk for all kinds of reasons.
Broadly, adulterants are added at two main levels-
At farms, adulterants are added by irresponsible dairy farmers usually to make a quick buck. Milk and milk products like fat, sell well in the market. Anything that allows the milkman to sell less milk for more boosts the profit margins.
What adds to the problem is the fact that we consume way more than we are able to produce. Despite being the largest milk producer in the world, India’s demand for milk still outstrips the production.
Even when farmers aren’t adding them intentionally, these adulterants seep into the milk. This mainly happens due to lack of hygiene and sanitation at the farm.
Farmers don’t have modern equipment to milk and care for cows. Most farmers are not trained well enough. Also, the high demand takes away the focus from quality control. Lastly, the absence of a regulating authority or regular quality checks further make the situation worse.
The 3 most common types of adulterants that seep into the milk at the farm are:
Water, by itself, only ends up diluting the milk and is not harmful. However, there is a considerable risk of contamination in the water. Especially today.
Contaminated water can lead to serious health diseases. However, you can avoid it for the most part by boiling milk before drinking it. To conclude, we can say water is a common adulterant but poses minimal risk.
1.2 Vegetable oil-
Milk fat is a valuable part of the milk animal gives. It's often sold at a higher rate than the milk itself. People most commonly make cheese or butter out of the milk fat.
But since it leaves less fat in the milk you're going to get, the milkmen mix vegetable oil into it. The creative ones would even add detergents to the mix. This way the milk seems to have froth in it, as you would expect.
1.3 Farm-level contaminants-
These include antibiotics which are used to treat animals. Because of improper handling, cows often contract a disease called mastitis. FSSAI did find samples of the antibiotics used to treat the disease in the milk samples it tested.
Then there are known cancer-causing agents including pesticides and weed-like that contaminate the cattle feed. As per an FSSAI study in 2018, 5.7 percent of milk samples contain Aflatoxin. It’s common for farmers to oversee this contamination. The occurrence is directly related to feed quality and affects human health.
Lastly, the Detergents used to clean vessels including milk buckets are a common adulterant found in milk. The detergent doesn’t get washed away easily and mixes with milk to find its way into our glasses.
2. COLLECTION CENTERS
The milk can further get adulterated at the collection centers. These adulterants chiefly come in one of two forms:
It usually takes milk 4-5 days to get from the farms to your local dairy shop. Naturally, the milk cannot stay usable over such a long duration. Hence, the milkmen often add preservatives at this stage before sending the milk to the processing plant. These preservatives include formalin, salicylic acid, benzoic acid, and hydrogen peroxide.
Another category of preservatives found in processed milk are additives. These can be of various kinds.
Solid-Not-Fat (SNF) is an important parameter of milk’s quality. People increase the SNF content in milk by using additives such as cane sugar, starch, and glucose. FSSAI found an abnormal SNF content in almost every fifth sample. Similarily, urea is used to increase the non-protein nitrogen content in milk.
Ammonium sulfate and detergents are used together to increase the density of milk.
It paints a rather sad picture, isn’t it?
The good news is that you can figure out if your milk is adulterated or not. Some of these tests can be done at the home itself, while others require a laboratory.
You can do a series of tests at your home itself to be sure of your milk-
Home test for Water-
- 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 water will flow immediately without leaving a mark.
Home test for Detergent-
- Take 5 to 10 ml of the sample with an equal amount of water.
- Shake the contents thoroughly.
- If milk is adulterated with detergent, it forms a dense lather.
- Pure milk will form a very thin foam layer due to agitation.
Home test for Starch-
- Boil 2-3 ml of sample with 5 ml of water.
- Cool and add 2-3 drops of tincture of iodine.
- Formation of blue color indicates the presence of starch. (In the case of milk, the addition of water and boiling is not required)
These home tests can cover most of your concerns. However, to be exactly sure about your milk, you need to ask your milkman for test reports. Ideally, the milkman would get these from 3rd party labs like we do.
Now, you’re armed with information as a conscious consumer. Hope you use this knowledge to good effect.
Do you have a story to share about adulterated milk?
Tell us all about it in the comments.
Featured image credits- Indusparent