NEW DELHI: The milk that you and your household consume might be unfit for consumption.
Random checking by government agencies has revealed that about 30 per cent of milk sold in the country is adulterated. This is significant given that 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.
The state food safety department analysed a total 7717 samples, of which 2307 were found to be ‘non-conforming,’ or adulterated. Officials said mixing water is most common, which dilutes the nutritional value of milk. Contaminated water can cause additional problems. Other, 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 minuscule when compared with the actual use of milk in every household. Naresh Kadyan, a consumer rights activist who has been campaigning for tighter quality controls on milk, says a 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. There are thousands of dairies and groceries in any big city selling dairy products,” he says.
Concerned over the increasingly rampant 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.
The officials also noted that the milk produced is almost entirely consumed domestically and demand is by and large equal to the production. 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.
“We can’t rule out the nexus among the stakeholders. The issue is directly related to the public health and government should take some serious initiatives to implement the food safety rules,” said advocate Umesh Sharma. “(Food adulteration) is a bailable offence and the accused have never got arrested. Basically, the food safety department is like a toothless tiger,” concurred Naresh Kadyan.
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.
Milk adulteration (data 2016-17)
- 7,717 no. of samples analysed by food safety departments
- 2,307 samples found non-conforming
- 30% percentage of samples (non-conforming)
- Mixing water is most common and it reduces its nutritional value
- Contaminated water can also cause additional health problems
- Other adulterants like detergent, foreign fat, starch, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), sugar, colour and urea are also used
Demand and Supply
Annual production during 2016-17: 165.40 million metric tons
Expected demand by 2022: 210-220 million metric tons