DR ZUBAIR AHMAD WAR
Srinagar: Milk is the physiological secretion produced by the mammalian animals. Mammals have specialised organs called mammary glands to produce milk to feed their young ones. Species like cows, buffaloes, goats etc were domesticated by man to obtain milk for his personal consumption. With time, various high-quality breeds were developed for higher milk production to meet the needs of growing human population.
It is no secret that milk is a daily used edible household item. Milk is regarded as a complete food as it contains the high-quality carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins in the right quantities. However, unlike meat and eggs, milk is most susceptible to adulteration. In fact, the adulteration of milk has presently reached an alarming proportion countrywide.
Shockingly, the ‘synthetic milk’ which resembles natural milk doesn’t have a single component of pure milk. Synthetic milk is the chemically produced milk by mixing the predefined and calculated amount of urea, caustic soda, refined oil and common detergents. The purpose of adding the detergents is to aid in the emulsification of the solution and giving it a frothy appearance.
Milk adulteration by unscrupulous elements is done to increase its volume to get more profit. Not only does such dilution of milk deprive the consumers of the valuable nutrients, but the various adulterants are harmful per se.
The main reasons for milk-adulteration are obviously the mismatch in production and consumption of milk and the inefficient transport of milk from rural milk producing villages to urban areas.
Farmers complain that the feeding cost of cows is too high. Owing to urbanisation, the agricultural land in the state is decreasing day by day, leading to a shortage of green fodder for cattle.
A quintal of cattle feed costs about Rs 2500, whereas a quintal of rice costs only Rs 2000. At Rs 25 per litre, the sale price of milk is not attractive and remunerative. “In this scenario, which poor farmer would rear high-quality cows,” a farmer’s delegation told the author.
According to farmers, even the costly feed available in the market is often of sub-standard quality. The feed is adulterated and instead of increasing milk yield, spoils the health of cattle. Pertinently, a cow needs around 1 kg feed for 3 kg milk, besides about 2 kg of feed and grass for maintenance purposes. The high input costs mar the farmers and discourage them.
ADULTERANTS AND THEIR HARMFUL EFFECTS
The main adulterant in milk is water. It is obviously added in order to increase the volume of milk to fetch more money. The other adulterants that are added to milk tend to hide the adulteration of milk with water. The color of pure cow-milk is yellowish white and it is thicker (viscous) than water. So, unscrupulous elements add thickening agents like starch and flour to make the diluted milk look normal. Similarly, table sugar is added to diluted milk to restore the normal sweetness of milk.
Milk has a characteristic composition which is species specific. Cow milk contains a fixed percentage of Fat and SNF (Solids Not Fat) including Lactose (milk-sugar) and Proteins. Whenever water is added to milk, obviously these nutritional indicators are lowered and can be detected easily by certain instruments. To cover up this, unscrupulous elements add substances like Ammonium Sulphate and Salt to increase the Lactometer Reading. They also add nitrogenous substances like Urea to elevate the level of protein in diluted milk. Further, various harmful preservatives like formalin are also added to milk to increase its shelf life.
Since water constitutes the main adulterant of milk, quite often the water added is dirty and leads to various water borne diseases. Besides, the dilution of milk by undesirable substances also lowers the quality of the wholesome food and instead of benefitting the consumers, it harms them. Though certain adulterants being corrosive cause immediate health problems, some of them accumulate in the body and cause serious long term effects including organ damage and even cancer. The Gastro-Intestinal Tract, Kidney and Liver are particularly affected. Ironically, the infants whose predominant diet is the milk are the worst affected and the adulterants cause a severe damage to their tender bodies, besides hampering their growth and development.
DETECTION OF ADULTERANTS
Assessment of milk quality is done in various ways: by the organoleptic properties of milk viz color, odor, taste, consistency etc; by detecting the normal constituents of the milk in their proper proportions like Fat, Protein, and Lactose percentage; by conducting certain Physico-chemical tests like acidity, specific gravity, electrical conductivity, pH and heat stability of milk etc. Further, the bacteriological count of milk can also be determined by various tests which can easily indicate the hygienic status of the milk. Moreover, there are certain specific chemical tests to detect particular adulterants. Most of the adulterants can be detected by utilising certain instruments and simple tests. For example, starch can be detected by simple Iodine test, detergent by the lather test etc. Even the NDDB (National Dairy Development Board) has devised ‘detecting kits’ for the quick and easy detection of adulterants by the individual households.
DETECTION OF SYNTHETIC MILK
Synthetic milk is bitter compared to natural milk which is sweet. Synthetic milk is highly alkaline (pH value over 10) compared to natural milk (pH 6.8). If rubbed between fingers, synthetic milk gives a soapy feeling because of the presence of detergents. Natural milk stays white even on boiling while the synthetic milk turns slightly yellow. Synthetic milk gets yellowish on storage while natural milk remains white. Sometimes fat in synthetic milk is reduced to zero. This is to project the product as healthy.
Milk adulteration has to be checked and the public has to be sensitised regarding harmful health aspects of milk adulteration. Veterinarians can play a role in it.
The government needs to open Cattle farms and implement various dairy development schemes (DDS) that encourage and motivate farmers to keep high quality cross-bred cows in order to produce more milk.
The veterinary centres should be manned by qualified veterinary doctors in order to provide adequate health cover for better milk production.
Since goat is regarded as ‘poor man’s cow’ owing to lesser inputs required compared to cattle, high milk producing dairy goats such as Beetal breed and Jamunapari breed need to be popularised among the poor farmers.
Even some milk producing goat breeds called ‘city breeds’ such as Barbari breed have the peculiarity that they can be reared in towns and city too owing to fewer space requirements.
The quality of feed available in the market has to be checked and its price has to be regulated. Farmers have to be provided with high quality subsidised feed. Feed mills for manufacturing feed blocks (with the incorporation of urea and molasses) have to be established.
Milk production, procurement and transport from milk producing areas to milk deficient areas has to be rationalised.
Our aim should be to economise milk production so that the farmers are benefitted and to check milk adulteration so that public health is safeguarded.
The author has Masters in Veterinary Science. He can be reached at [email protected]