Repeatedly, research data and raids by the food safety authorities show that there is adulteration of milk with urea, starch, detergent, caustic soda, formalin, glucose and water. However, the lack of stringent action emboldens the culprits to carry on with this adulteration at the expense of the health and lives of citizens of all ages.
Early this year, Pune-based activist, Satish Deshmukh, who campaigns for farmers’ issues, filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the food and drugs commissioner (FDA) after he read a news item which stated that 8,497 litres of milk from Shivkrupa milk collection centre, Kharda village, Jamkhed taluka, Ahmednagar was seized at Baramati.
As Mr Deshmukh did not receive a reply from the public information officer (PIO), he filed his first appeal with the first appellate authority (FAA). After 102 days, he recently received a reply, which confirmed that the entire quantity of milk was adulterated with glucose and detergent and declared unsafe for consumption.
He says, “Milk is considered the ‘ideal food’ (purn-ann) because it is a great source of nutrients like protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. However, the mafia is playing with the lives of people. Farmers provide good quality milk, but dairy owners and workers, the milk distribution team and collection centres are involved in this nefarious activity.’’
Mr Deshmukh calls for stringent punishment and feels that the state government should have flying squads to check adulteration at places where raw milk is sold in rural areas of Maharashtra.
In 2018, the Advanced Milk Testing Research Laboratory, Post Graduate Institute of Veterinary Education & Research at Jaipur and University of Veterinary and Animal Science at Bikaner in Rajasthan researched to detect the presence of urea in milk.
The report concluded that “in all the divisions of Rajasthan, the milk consumed by customers is urea adulterated. This shows that milk quality is not checked completely as per the standards prescribed by the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI). It is important to have a quality control system that regularly checks and ensures that only good quality milk is sold. And awareness campaigns and monitoring agencies of the government can alert the public for milk adulteration.”
In September this year, four people were arrested in Nashik from a milk collection centre that unabashedly adulterated milk.
As reported by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) India, 70% of the milk collected by food safety authorities did not conform to the standards.
It states that the survey reveals something startling. Most Indians are consuming detergents and other contaminants through milk. Adulteration of detergents in milk causes food poisoning and gastrointestinal complications. The immediate effect of drinking adulterated milk with urea, caustic soda and formalin is gastroenteritis but the long-term effects are far more severe.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)