It’s not just the air you breathe and the water you drink; often the milk you buy is bad for your health too.
All seven samples of milk, from four well-known brands, that HT recently collected across the city tested positive for coliform bacteria, a sure sign of unsanitary processing and packaging. One of the samples also showed traces of urea and nitrate, found in fertilizer.
HT got the seven packets of milk, bought from neighbourhood stores, tested independently at two government-appr-oved laboratories. Coliform bacteria, found in all seven samples, is generally destroyed during pasteurisation. Boiling the milk before use also destroys the bacteria. However, coliform bacteria reduces the shelf life of milk and increases its acidity.
Urea, which was found in one sample, is much more dangerous. It can cause nausea and gastritis and is particularly harmful to the kidneys. Prolonged exposure to urea can seriously damage the kidneys.
Sitaram Dixit, chairperson of Consumer Guidance Society of India, explained that traces of urea in milk could be attributed to the fodder that cattle eat. But if there were more than two adulterants in one sample, the danger to health multiplied, he pointed out.
Adulterants are sometimes added to milk to boost its solid net fat (SNF) content, which determines the price primary suppliers get from major dairies.
“We have been taking food adulteration seriously. If citizens suspect that the milk being bought by them is adulterated, they can approach the FDA. We will collect the samples and conduct tests free of cost and initiate proceedings if adulteration is found in those samples,” said Food and Drugs Administration Commissioner Mahesh Zagde. “We regularly collect samples and conduct tests to check adulteration,” he added.
But paediatrician Samir Dalwai calls for a stricter watch on adulteration, especially as milk is a vital ingredient in the daily diet of the young as well as the elderly and both age groups are more susceptible to infections.