The Delhi Food Safety Department tested some 2,880 samples of different food types across both packaged and fresh items between January 2018 and April 2019, of which 477 failed quality tests, it has recently been revealed.
Topping the list amongst these 477 samples were milk and relevant products, of which 161 samples were adulterated. 21 were found to be ‘misbranded’, 125 ‘substandard’ and 15 ‘unsafe’.
According to Hindustan Times, a government officer said that this was not an unusual occurrence.
“Usually, milk samples fail to meet standard because the fats or solids-not-fat (SNF) content is less than the standards [required]. Sometimes cows produce milk that is not up to the standard, [but] since it does not have a serious affect of health (sic), we usually do not prosecute small dairy farmers,” he said.
That said, in 2017 the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had already lowered dairy standard requirements for fats and SNF content in milk to cater for samples naturally low in these.
Misbranding here refers to the omission or erroneous printing of nutritional information on the product label, whereas substandard is when product nutritional levels are not on par with legal and standard requirements.
Unsafe food products run a much higher risk of severe penalty – the previous two would lead to fines, but products found to be unsafe could lead to six months’ imprisonment and INR100,000 (US$1443) in fines for non-injurious cases
Injurious cases would lead to up to six years’ imprisonment and INR500,000 (US$7,217) in fines, whereas cases that caused fatalities would see no less than seven years in prison, and no less than INR1,000,000 (US$14,400) in fines issued to the adulterator.
In December last year, FSSAI conducted the 2018 National Milk Quality Survey on milk in the country and found these to be ‘largely safe’ and ‘not serious’ at all.
In its official statement, the agency described the study as ‘by far the largest systematic survey’ in terms of sample size and parameters tested, and attempted to lay consumers’ worries to rest.
“[In] a large number (6432) of samples, very few samples were found to be adulterated. […] Slightly less than 10% samples had contaminants coming mainly from poor farm practices. Over 90% of the samples were found safe in the survey,” said FSSAI.
The study was conducted after earlier reports showed that roughly 68% of all milk and milk products in India had been found to be in violation of FSSAI standards.
Current FSSAI milk standard
According to the FSSAI Food Safety And Standards (Food Products Standards And Food Additives) Regulations 2011, milk is governed under sub-regulation 2.1.2 and applies to buffalo milk, cow milk, goat milk, sheep milk and camel milk.
The minimum fat and SNF content in each type of milk differs, but for the most common cow’s milk, minimum milk fat content must reach 3.2% and SNF content must reach 8.3%.