Indian detergent scare reveals widespread milk adulteration

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Skimmed milk powder Milk

Indian detergent scare reveals widespread milk adulteration
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has spoken out on the results of tests that found nationwide evidence of substandard milk and even products with traces of detergent.

The FSSAI said that, within its ‘National Survey of Milk Adulteration’, 14% or 147 of non-conforming samples (of which there 1226 out of 1791, or 68.4%), contained traces of detergent, but these cases were confined to Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, only four of 33 states assessed.

“This study indicates that there is a large scale practice of intentionally adding water to the milk and thereafter camouflaging it by addition of skimmed milk powder, glucose and fat," ​the authority said.

“Such milk is considered ‘sub-standard’, and can pose health hazards depending upon the quality of water added by vendor,”​ the FSSAI added, although it advised that microbial contamination of water could be overcome by boiling milk prior to consumption.

Nationwide surveillance survey

The surveillance survey of both loose and packaged milk found that 68.4% of samples assessed did not conform to Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 (FSS) regulations, but the FSSAI said it was “important to appreciate the difference between ‘non-conformance’ and ‘unsafe food’”.

Unpacking these definitions, the FSSAI said that national standards were specified for 10 types of milk including (1) buffalo, cow, goat and sheep milk, and (2) mixed milk, standardized products, recombined milk, toned milk, double-toned milk, skimmed milk and full cream.

Glossing the first group of products, the authority said they were defined as a “normal mammary secretion derived from complete milking of a healthy milch animal, without either addition thereto or extraction therefrom” ​unless otherwise provided for in regulations.

The rules did permit standardization of milk within the second grouping in terms of solids not fat (SNF) and fat content by addition or removal of fat or skimmed milk powder (SMP), the FSSAI added.

Sub-standard milk found

In light of this, the authority said the survey found a large number of non-conforming samples that didn’t meet SNF or fat percentages, “implying thereby sub-standard quality of milk, but not necessarily being unsafe for human consumption with proper precautions”.

Similarly, some samples claimed as fresh milk were found to contain added skimmed milk powder, and such products could pose health hazards if made up with contaminated water, said the FSSAI.

Under the Indian FSS, unsafe food means an “article of food whose nature, substance or quality is so affected as to render it injurious to health”.

Reflecting on the detergent traces in the report’s executive summary, its authors wrote: “Consumption of milk with detergent may cause health hazards and indicates lack of hygiene and sanitation in the milk handling.”

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