Milk being rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins (A, D, B3, B12) and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, potassium) has become a staple food across the world. Milk and dairy products contain a number of nutrients that aid in metabolism and growth in human beings. For instance, calcium helps in building strong bones in childhood and its maintenance during adulthood, and reduce osteoporosis and bone fractures in older age. Milk is the primary source of nutrition for infants before they are able to digest the other types of food. Adults consume milk as such and in various forms: paneer, cheese, butter, and yogurt.
There is an ever-increasing demand for milk throughout the world. Unfortunately, this demand supply gap is misused for economic gains. Water and chemicals (adulterants) are added into milk to either increase the volume or shelf life of milk, and this is called milk ‘adulteration’. Artificial milk is made with detergents and mixed with real milk. Milk has been found to be adulterated with fertilizers (urea, ammonium sulfate), preservatives (hydrogen peroxide, boric acid) and neutralizers (Sodium carbonate). Urea and ammonium sulfate fertilizers, starch is added to increase thickness of milk so that they pass the density test with lactometer. This could pose serious threat to the health of the consumers. According to the milk survey by food safety standards association of India (FSSAI) showed about 68 % milk adulteration in 2011, and 7 % adulteration in 2019. Milk adulteration has been discovered in both packaged and loose milk (Brototi et. al. Current Science, 2017 Vol 112, 2316). Here are the long-term effects of adulterants on health.
Ureain excess stays in the blood stream and may cause kidney failure
Ammonium sulphate causes gastro-intestinal disorders
Hydrogen peroxide and boric acidare used to kill microbes and are cytotoxins to human beings
Neutralizersare corrosive to the gastrointestinal system and are fatal when consumed in large amounts
Detergentstaste bitter and the stomach responds by releasing acids to induce vomiting
Starchmay lead to increase in blood glucose and cause diarrhea
Formalincan cause skin problems and cancer
Salt can lead to heartburn, hypertension and osteoporosis
The general immediate indicator that milk is adulterated is nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and the long-term effect is the irreversible damage to stomach, intestine, liver, kidneys and may be cancer. In spite of the life-threatening nature of adulteration, we tend to disregard due to the lengthy period of effect. There have been instances when children have lost their life due to adulteration. All the governments have promulgated ordinances and made adulteration as a punishable offence. To some extent, consumer awareness and proactive selection of unadulterated milk by frequent testing may address the milk adulteration problem.