One in every five packets of milk is adulterated in the state with chemicals such as caustic soda and urea.
While caustic soda, an acid found in detergents, damages the digestive tract including the stomach lining, urea can damage the urinary system and lead to the formation of stones in the kidney.
After a year’s investigation, the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the findings about milk in Maharashtra on Friday.
It is now launching a massive drive to check milk quality across the state. Even tankers coming from outside the state will be stopped at highway checkposts and samples taken.
When two owners of large dairies were contacted, they said their dairies did not produce such adulterated milk and refused to say anything else.
Among 761 samples tested between April 2006 and May 2007 from state cooperatives as well as private diaries, 151 samples were adulterated.
A report on 100-odd samples is awaited. The adulterants varied from chemicals like washing soda and urea to non-synthetic material like palm oil, liquid glucose and lactose. The FDA refused to say which dairies it had taken samples from.
Prosecution has started in only 27 cases. Soon after the FDA received the report, a high-level meeting was convened by the Home Department in the Mantralaya.
“The chief minister had attended the meeting and we are trying to evolve some strategy to counter this. He wants to make provisions for much stronger punitive action against the offenders,” said outgoing principal secretary of animal husbandry and dairy development department Leena Mehendale.
“From June, we launched a massive operation and in eight days collected 53 samples, arrested four people. We are waiting for the reports on the samples,” said FDA Commissioner Amitabh Chandra.
The samples had urea higher than the safety limit of 700 ppm, which experts correlated with indiscriminate use of fertilisers in cattle fodder. “It is a strong possibility. Also, fertilisers seeping into groundwater are affecting the quality of grass,” said Pune-based veterinarian Aniruddha Belsare.
In Mumbai, experts said some dairies added urea as adulterant to enhance colour and texture. “However, they did not realise that the natural urea content in milk was increasing all the time because of rampant use of fertilisers in fodder. Now, it is crossing the safety threshold,” said Dr JC Khanna, secretary, Parel Animal Hospital.