How adulterated is the milk available in India? FSSAI reveals the answer

FSSAI conducted a survey, collecting 6,432 milk samples from across the country

Milk representational image Representational image | via Wikipedia Commons

The festive season invariably brings back the usual suspicion—that milk and milk products we buy are largely adulterated.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) conducted a survey, collecting 6,432 milk samples from across the country, and found that only 12 of them were adulterated and unsafe for human consumption.

The FSSAI, on Friday, released a detailed report based on the 'National Milk Safety and Quality Survey 2018'—the first survey on such a huge scale. It was conducted by an independent agency from May to October 2018, covering all the states and union territories with the objective of monitoring safety and quality of liquid milk available in the country.

“The survey dispels the widespread perception that liquid milk in the country is largely adulterated” said FSSAI.

One of the highlights of the survey was that it found the presence of Aflatoxin M1 (AFM1) residues in milk. AFM1, which gets into milk through cattle feed and food, is regulated in India. As many as 368 of the total samples—or 5.7 per cent—had residues of AFM1 beyond permissible limits. The samples were from Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Kerala. The FSSAI pointed out that this is “more dominant in processed milk rather than raw milk”.

Of the dozen samples that were adulterated beyond consumption level, six had hydrogen peroxide, three had detergents, two had urea and one had neutralizer. Nitrates and boric acid, also counted among milk adulterants, were not found in any of the samples.

Although negligible in terms of percentage—1.2 per cent—77 samples from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh had residues of antibiotics above the permissible level. One raw milk sample from Kerala had pesticide above the permissible level.

“This is the first time that a quantitative analysis of all samples that failed on account of adulterants and contaminants has been done. It is found that the level of adulterants and contaminants in failed samples is not high, therefore unlikely to pose serious threat to human health. FSSAI is, however, committed to zero tolerance for any adulteration and contamination of milk. The survey has helped in identification of hotspots, so that more intensified efforts for surveillance and enforcement could be taken up in such areas.”

However, the food regulator confirmed that the incidents of spurious milk are “seasonal, occurring in festival times when there is a large demand supply gap,” and urged the state governments to step up vigil.

A stakeholders’ group meeting, convened by FSSAI, looked into the presence of ammonium sulphate in milk and decided that it was coming into the milk naturally and was not a contaminant. It was noted that ammonium sulphate is allowed as an additive in certain foods in several countries.