Understanding Milk Adulteration in India
Milk in its natural form has high food value. It supplies nutrients like proteins, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in moderate amounts in an easily digestible form. Due to its nutritive value, milk is significant to young and old people.
Being made up of 87% water, milk is prone to adulteration by unscrupulous middlemen and unfaithful farm workers. Moreover, its high nutritive value makes it an ideal medium for the rapid multiplication of bacteria, particularly under unhygienic production and storage at ambient temperatures.
A national survey in India has revealed that almost 70% of the milk sold and consumed in India is adulterated by contaminants such as detergent and skim milk powder, but impure water is the highest contaminant.
Media coverage on rampant milk adulteration in India.
The Real Picture
A co-operative collects milk from thousands of farmers. A typical farmer family raises two or three animals. He is paid ₹27/litre for cow milk. All animals do not give milk throughout the year. On an average, they sell 8 litres/day. Income is ₹200/day. Expenditure for animals and themselves is ₹300/day. Net loss is ₹100/day.
The rate at which Indian population is increasing is directly proportional to the rate of small and marginal farmers leaving their profession.
Milk adulteration techniques will be invented to meet the demand. Adulteration happens at multiple stages:
Farmer Level: Cheap commercial fodder bought by farmers is itself adulterated with toxic chemicals. Growth hormones and antibiotics are part of raising animals. Farmer generally mixes milk powder/oil as modern instruments detect water. Poor health and sanitation condition of cows lead to irreversible quality issues:
According to research, 1 in 2 cows in India is infected with Mastitis leading to higher SCC(somatic cell count) or pus in milk ( > 1 million cell/ml).
9 in 10 samples found positive for Coliform and E.coli due to fecal contamination.
Upto 70% milk found to be adulterated with urea, detergent or salt.
Urea is added to milk to provide whiteness and leveling SNF.
Detergents are added to emulsify and dissolve oil in milk.
Collection Agent: Collects sub-standard milk from farmers. Due to poor cold-chain infrastructure, adds formalin and hydrogen peroxide to prolong its freshness. Does pasteurization & homogenization. Stores milk for a day or two before selling it.
Milk Brands: Gets milk from agents, reconstitute it with skimmed milk powder to create variants and supplies it after packing to customers. Adulteration techniques are business secrets.
It's difficult to change this in the next few years. Since pure milk from packets is out of scope for urban consumers, I would recommend shifting to farm fresh milk option from a government certified farm that produces and delivers milk directly to home without involving middlemen.
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