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68% of Indian milk contaminated

Study finds detergent, glucose and fertiliser taints the produce.

NEW DELHI // More than two thirds of milk samples tested in a cross-country health survey in India were found to be contaminated with additives such as detergent and fertiliser.

The survey of 33 of the country's 35 states and territories by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India found 68 per cent of 1,791 cow and buffalo milk samples were contaminated, most diluted with water or sweeteners, fat, non-edible solids, glucose and skimmed milk powder to increase volume.

Some samples also were found to contain more alarming substances such as detergent, the bleaching agent hydrogen peroxide and the fertiliser, urea.

"Addition of water not only reduces the nutritional value of milk but contaminated water may also pose health risks," said the study of milk supplies for last year, released yesterday.

The immediate effect of drinking milk laced with urea or other harmful additives "are far more serious", the report noted, listing gastroenteritis or intestinal problems as a health concern.

The presence of detergent "indicates lack of hygiene and sanitation in the milk handling", the study said. In urban centres, almost 69 per cent of the samples were found to be contaminated, compared with 31 per cent of the samples from rural areas.

The states of West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand fared the worst, where not a single sample passed the tests. All 250 samples from these states were found to be contaminated with detergent.

Only random samples collected from two states, Goa and Pondicherry, were found not be contaminated.

India is one of the world's biggest producers of milk but struggles to meet domestic demand. The country produced 140 million tonnes in 2010, but fell short of domestic demand by 20 million tonnes, according to the department of animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries.

A national grid links more than 700 Indian cities and towns to the milk producers in the villagers. The processing and distribution of milk starts with dairy farmers across villages in India, who bring their daily supplies to a local collection centre in their village.

They are paid according to volume, approximately 20 rupees (Dh1.42) per litre. The milk collection vans then take the milk to factories in nearby cities for pasteurisation. A litre of packaged milk costs 38 rupees. The study found one in three packs of packaged milk to be adulterated.

Detergent was found in 103 samples, or 8.4 per cent of all the study samples, likely the result of from milk tanks that are not washed properly, the report said.

"We don't even know what we are drinking anymore," said Michael Lahrry, a farmer from Bijnaur in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

"The milk the dairy farmers give to the collection centres in their respective villages is fair and good," said Mr Lahrry. "But it is the greed of manufacturers, and because demand is so high, that they don't care about who drinks the milk and can add all these additives."

Mr Lahrry said contamination likely takes place in the factories where the milk is pasteurised.

The report on milk quality comes as another nationwide survey showed that 42 per cent of children in India younger than 5 are underweight and almost 60 per cent are stunted.

The Hunger and Malnutrition Survey monitored more than 100,000 children in 112 districts across nine states in the country from October 2010 to February of last year. The prime minister Manmohan Singh, who released the report yesterday, called child malnutrition the country's shame.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae


Follow The National on @TheNationalUAE & Surya Bhattacharya on @SuryatapaB


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