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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

Milk samples found to contain cancer-causing substance

Overall, 7% of the 6,432 samples tested in 1,103 cities with a population of at least 50,000 were unsafe to drink. Most of the samples that failed the safety test were processed milk samples available in the market.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2019 04:29 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Traces of harmful chemicals indicate rampant adulteration of milk.
Traces of harmful chemicals indicate rampant adulteration of milk.
         

Milk contamination has proven to be a bigger concern than milk adulteration for India, with about 6% of the milk samples containing a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance), Aflatoxin M1, a liver-toxic micro-contaminant, according to results from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) National Milk Safety and Quality Survey 2018.

Overall, 7% of the 6,432 samples tested in 1,103 cities with a population of at least 50,000 were unsafe to drink. Most of the samples that failed the safety test were processed milk samples available in the market.

“By and large, the liquid milk that is being sold across the country is safe to drink. Only about 7% of the total samples lifted for testing were found harmful for human health. Adulteration using detergent, urea etc. was found only in 12 samples, which means that the common perception of our daily use milk being largely adulterated is wrong,” said Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI.

Contamination was a bigger issue, though.

Among the top three states with aflatoxin M1 residue in samples beyond the permissible limit of 0.5 parts per million (ppm), were Tamil Nadu (88 out of 551 samples), Delhi (38 out of 262 samples), and Kerala (37 out of 187 samples.

“The contamination is usually inadvertent, and the presence of aflatoxin M1 beyond the permissible limit can be attributed to cattle-feed and fodder. Raw milk that is supplied through milk vendors, local dairy farms etc suffers from quality issues such as addition of water mainly that doesn’t cause harm to health. Our focus will be to see how the feed can be regulated so that contaminants don’t find way into milk that we drink. The survey results and action points have been shared with the states,” said Agarwal.

The FSSAI study marks the first time liquid milk was tested for aflatoxin M1, apart from antibiotics and pesticides. Nearly 1.2% of the total milk samples had antibiotic residues, with Madhya Pradesh (23 out of 335), Maharashtra (9 out of 678 samples), and Uttar Pradesh (8 out of 729 samples) being the states with the highest residue levels. Kerala is the only state where a sample of raw milk was found to contain pesticide residue.

Experts said it was time India created a feed regulatory mechanism to address such issues.

“The problem is mainly associated with commercial farmers who store feed. The substance (aflatoxin) is naturally produced by certain types of moulds that grow in the stored feed. While the farmers need to be trained in good storage practices, plant owners cannot just disown these small and medium dairy farmers who they source their supplies from. They will have to help in creating a safe ecosystem. Also, authorities should create a feed regulatory mechanism that will help change the situation in due course of time,” said Kuldeep Sharma, an expert in the dairy business.