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Soda adding to woes of milk consumers in Punjab

punjab Updated: Jan 29, 2015 11:56 IST
Anshu Seth
Anshu Seth
Hindustan Times
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Adulteration in milk is not limited to dilution with water. Traces of harmful chemicals such as sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), urea, sodium carbonate and ammonium sulphate are impacting the health of milk consumers.

Having procured one milk sample each from a tea stall at the railway station here and outside the bus stand in October last, HT gave these for testing at the laboratory of Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU). Both samples tested positive for soda -- sodium bicarbonate, sodium hydroxide and sodium carbonate. After testing, the milk turned pink, indicating adulteration.

Soda neutralises the presence of acids in milk. It is used by dairy farmers and milkmen to increase milk’s shelf life and conceal the contents added to it. Dr Sandeep Puri, principal, Dayanand Medical College, said, “Excessive consumption of bicarbonate for a prolonged period disturbs the body’s functioning. It can cause damage to organs such as liver and kidneys.” In the case of people who consume high-calcium diet or calcium supplements, use of sodium bicarbonate can cause milk-alkali syndrome, which can lead to kidney stones and failure.

Synthetic approach

The Punjab Dairy Farmers’ Association (PDFA) has stated that more than 5 lakh litres of synthetic milk is prepared in the state every year. Also, 5-10 lakh litres of powdered milk is sold in the summer as, despite 50% reduction in the yield, the demand is met by dairy farmers and milk plants.

Dr GS Kang, PDFA member, alleged that officials were hand in glove with dairy farmers and vendors who used adulterants for increasing the quantity of milk. “Recently, PDFA members made a plan to raid a factory preparing synthetic milk near Faridkot. The raid succeeded only because some senior officials of the departments concerned were taken into confidence for ensuring the secrecy of the operation. Though workers were caught with refined oil, caustic soda, water and shampoo being mixed for synthetic milk, followed by the registration of a case, the culprits managed to get bail soon.” The factory has again become functional.

Use of oxytocin

Rampant use of oxytocin injections on milching cattle by milkmen and dairy farmers to increase milk production is another malpractice. Dr Sandeep Kaushal, professor and head, department of pharmacology, Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, said, “The presence of oxytocin in boiled milk becomes negligible, thus making it safe for drinking.”

Dr Ram Pal, pharmacology professor at GADVASU, said reports regarding harmful effects of oxytocin on milk consumers and animals were not supported by any scientific study. “Nevertheless, in view of reported misuse of oxytocin by farmers, it is advocated that this drug should be available only on the prescription of a registered practitioner.”