Jun 6, 2018

Milk Adulteration: The white poison

Given its high demand, some miscreants indulge in adulteration and start trading on its quality for their selfish and cunning interests 
Nature’s one of the richest sources of energy and nutrients- milk, is preferred by one and all alike from the beginning of time.
Dairy products always have had a special place in our dietary system. It is a major source of food for infants, children and even adults consume it in one form or another. 
The moment a child is born his first meal is always milk. It is widely produced, consumed and always high in demand source of food worldwide.
Given its high demand, some miscreants indulge in adulteration and start trading on its quality for their selfish and cunning interests.
They have become so selfish that without thinking about the repercussions, they resort to unethical and criminal practices of adulteration which compromises on the quality and puts health of consumers which happen to be mostly children at risk.
Adulteration is the process of intentionally degrading the quality and concentration of milk by adding water to increase the selling quantity, using bovine growth hormones (BGH) which is a genetically engineered growth hormone identical to natural bovine pituitary product to increase milk production by 15 percent to 25 percent or by adding some cheaper or inferior chemicals and preservatives (which are mostly carcinogenic) to enhance its shelf life, either ways the quality of milk gets deteriorated.
This adulterated and substandard milk is then supplied throughout the state especially to urban areas via shabby delivery channels and stored in unhygienic conditions which further downgrade its quality.
Adulteration not only makes milk deficient in nutrients but mostly results in its contamination causing serious health risks.
Food poisoning, diarrhoea, brucellosis, abdominal pain, fever, listeriosis, inflammatory bowel syndrome are some of the diseases caused due to consumption of contaminated dairy products.
As per several researches the preservatives and chemicals used in feeds of these animals and in packed dairy products like cheese and toned milk are also known to be highly carcinogenic if consumed for a longer period.
Many dieticians don’t recommend consumption of milk to their patients as they fear that there may be biologically active metabolites of anti-microbe and contaminants in milk products that could result in serious health issues.
Substandard milk has now became a normal thing in our society and people have willingly or unwilling started to live with it and concerned authorities don’t feel the need or compulsion to take action against the culprits or implement some quality assurance in farms to reduce contaminants in milk and dairy products.
Yes, we do see some random anti-adulteration drives by authorities and some penalties once in a blue moon but given the seriousness of the crime I think it’s just not enough.
No proper system or checks are in place to control the quality of dairy products making it easier for these criminal elements to run their business.
In 2016, the Supreme Court of India while acting on the PIL based on the report titled “Executive Summary on National Survey on Milk Adulteration, 2011” released by Foods Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) which concluded that on a national level, 68.4 percent of milk being sold is adulterated, issued directions to prevent sale of adulterated and synthetic milk.
Sadly, in our state we don’t have much clinical records available and no proper testing mechanism is in place, so I am afraid the figures may be much higher than the national average.
As per some media reports which claim it to me more than 83 percent in the State of Jammu Kashmir.
Considering the seriousness of the matter and ongoing holy month of Ramadan, our state must implement some effective strategies to overcome this menace.
Authorities need to take appropriate steps like directing dairy farm owners, operators and retailers working in the state that if such adulterants are found in the milk, stringent action will be taken against them.
The actions should not just be limited to penalties and fines but should include other stringent punishments like imprisonment and cancellation of licenses as well.
State Food Safety Authorities should also ensure that there is adequate lab testing infrastructure and ensure that all labs are well-equipped.
To prevent adulteration of milk, the concerned department must set up a website specifying the functioning and responsibilities of food safety authorities.
Government must also evolve a robust complaint mechanism for checking corruption and other unethical practices of the food authorities and their officers.
District-wise special teams need to be allotted to regularly check the standard of food products available in market and awareness needs to be created among masses by way of media to identify and report adulteration incidents.
Toll free numbers for registering complaints also need to be made available. School children should be educated by conducting workshops and teaching them easy methods for detection of common adulterants in milk products.
These small steps will surely be very helpful in eradicating this social evil from our society and letting us live a healthy life.

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