Centre's Survey Finds Indian Milk Is Largely Safe; Toxin Found in 5.7% Samples

The FSSAI's survey found that 41% of the “safe” samples still fell short on at least one quality parameter.

New Delhi: The government has released its National Milk Safety and Quality Survey for 2018. The report has been prepared by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

About 93% of the samples (5,976 out of 6,437) surveyed were found to be “absolutely safe” for human consumption. “This is undoubtedly good news for consumers,” says the FSSAI. About 456 samples had safety issues.

The bad news is that 41% of the “safe” samples still fell short on at least one quality parameter.

“This dispels the myth that milk in India is largely adulterated,” says Pawan Agarwal, the CEO of FSSAI in the report. The report says that the FSSAI’s previous attempts to conduct surveys had resulted in “avoidable and disproportionate scare in the minds of the Indian consumers” and that there had been “deceitful campaigns and unsubstantiated reports” about the quality of milk in India. Therefore, the new report is a “myth buster”, he says.

Agarwal says:

“It can be concluded from the survey that the problem of adulteration and unsafe milk exists, but it is confined to certain locations and in peak season. The survey has helped in identification of hot spots, so that more intensified efforts for surveillance and enforcement could be taken up in such areas.”

The survey was conducted between May and October 2018, tested the safety and quality conditions of of liquid milk samples. A total of 6,432 samples of milk were taken from various places in India. Around 59.5% (3,825) of these samples were from raw milk and 40.5% (2,607) were samples of processed milk.

The samples were analysed for the presence of 13 types of adulterants and three types of contaminants as well as for their fat and solids-not-fat content. Milk samples were collected from both the organised (retailers and processors) and unorganised (milk mandis, local dairy farms and milk vendors) sectors.

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This is also the first time the government has done a quantitative analysis of milk samples and their contaminants and adulterants, according to the report. The FSSAI had conducted milk surveys in 2011 and 2016 when 1,791 and 1,663 samples were analysed respectively. The new survey is much larger and the previous surveys were “inadequate as no clear picture emerged from these surveys due to small sample size and testing done by different laboratories that did not follow uniform protocol. Moreover, only qualitatively analysis was done and required safety parameters were not covered in the survey.”

In terms of contaminants, the report says that one of its “major findings” is that 5.7% (368 samples) found residue of aflatoxin M1 beyond its permissible limit, most of it in processed milk samples. This is a type of toxin that can cause disease and death if it is found beyond its permissible limits. It gets into milk through fodder. This is the first time that the government has tested aflatoxin contamination. The top three states where milk samples were found to have this toxin are Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Kerala.

Other samples also had contaminants like antibiotics (77 samples) and pesticides (1 sample).

Some of the adulterants found in 12 of these samples included hydrogen peroxide, detergents, urea, neutralisers.

Of the 41% of safe samples that failed quality parameters, the non-compliance was largely on account of low fat or low solids-not-fat content. The survey says these are two key quality parameters both in raw and processed milk.

“Presence of maltodextrin [and] sugar [in] samples mainly confined to processed milk was yet another surprise from this survey. Maltodextrin and sugar are not unsafe but are sometimes added to raise the level of fat and SNF of milk. While, these do not represent threat to human health, nevertheless, these incidences are preventable and stringent action is required to curb them. The survey did not find any non-compliance on account of other parameters viz. cellulose, glucose, starch and vegetable oil was not found in the collected samples,” the survey says.