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Trade of spurious milk products in past fortnight has left Punjab shocked

Punjab produces milk in surplus but the recent crackdown under Mission Tandrust shows parallel dairy economy runs in state where chemicals such as toilet cleaner is used in paneer and detergent powder in milk.

punjab Updated: Aug 26, 2018 12:03 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
spurious milk products,Punjab,White Revolution
Raids by the food commissioner office and the health department across Punjab show that paneer and khoya are being made from poor quality skimmed milk mixed with starch. Oil is added to fulfil the fat content(HT Photo)

More than 7,000 quintals of spurious milk products have been seized in Punjab in the past fortnight. Of this, all samples of paneer (cottage cheese) have failed the lab test. The scale of spurious trade has left Punjab shocked for it is the state that not only pioneered the White Revolution but also has the highest per capita milk production in the country.

The authorities carrying out the crackdown say they have found a parallel dairy economy running in the state to manufacture spurious milk products without using the basic ingredient, milk.

Data accessed from the office of the director, Mission Tandarust, Punjab, shows that 904 samples of milk, paneer, khoya and desi ghee were collected over the past 15 days in more than 1,000 raids conducted across the state. Of them, 364 samples were analysed in the Punjab Government’s food laboratory in Kharar till Saturday. As many as 161 samples of the 364 failed the food safety standards.

The spurious samples have confirmed the use of chemicals such as toilet cleaners in paneer, detergent powder to give more froth in the milk and palm oil to increase fat content in the milk produced from skimmed milk. The common use of Maltodextrone chemical is also prevalent. It is used to increase the thickness of milk so that it appears pure.

Greed, not need

The state animal husbandry department says there are 52 lakh buffaloes and 21 lakh cows in Punjab of which 70% are into milk production.

The state produces 360 lakh litres of milk a day. About 50% of this is consumed at the village level and the remaining 180 lakh litres is the market surplus.

In the market, 50 lakh litres goes to milk plants, including 20 lakh litres in the nine co-operative milk plants and 30 lakh litres in the 10 large private milk plants. This is followed by nearly 50 lakh litres to milk vendors called dhodhis and 30 lakh litres to halwais or makers of mithai (sweets).

In addition to this, about 20 lakh litres of milk goes out of Punjab and the rest is directly sold by farmers.

Punjab leads frontline milk-producing states such as Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat in terms of per capita availability of milk.

Also read: Spurious milk factory in Patiala ran in nexus with food safety wing, say police

“The demand and supply dynamics show that the production of spurious milk and milk-related products is not the need of the market. It’s the greed of some people who have found innovative ways to earn more by manufacturing products using adulterated material,” says food safety commissioner and Tandarust Punjab mission director Kahan Singh Pannu, who led the crackdown.

Raids by the food commissioner office and the health department show that certain bad elements make paneer or khoya from skimmed milk. One portion of the poor quality skimmed milk powder and three portions of starch are mixed and thereafter refined or hydrogenated oil is added to fulfil the fat content to meet food safety standards.

“Toilet-cleaning sulphuric acid is used instead of citric acid to coagulate milk while making paneer,” says a note from the mission director to deputy commissioners in the state on Friday.

Know the economics

The authorities say it’s bulk buyers such as dhaba owners, marriage party contractors and those hosting social gatherings are supplied the spurious products because they are available at cheaper rates as compared to genuine goods.

Spurious paneer is sold for Rs 170 a kg, while the manufacturing cost of original paneer is Rs 250-Rs 270 a kg. The input cost to manufacture the spurious paneer is about Rs 70 per kg and Rs 100 a kg is earned by selling the synthetic paneer.

Spurious desi ghee that is sold for Rs 200 a kg is made at 50% of the cost of the actual production cost.

In the packing, the term ‘cooking medium’ is mentioned in place of ghee which prevents the authorities from seizing it as inferior quality ghee. This route to circumvent rules is often resorted to. Here, the earnings per kg is more than Rs 120.

The adulterated milk is being sold at Rs 28 to Rs 32 per litre in bulk rates, whereas the cost of good quality milk is Rs 40 to Rs 50 per litre. Here, the earning for the dubious elements is Rs 15 to Rs 20 a litre.

No deterrent action

Health department records show such raids under the Food Safety Act, 2006, have remained a formality. If a sample is found unsafe for consumption, there is a provision of penalty of four to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh but these challans have remained only on paper.

“Offenders are let off with fine of Rs 1,000-Rs 50,000. In 10 years, not a single offender has been jailed,” says a senior health department official requesting anonymity.

First Published: Aug 26, 2018 12:00 IST