Bitter truth of White Revolution

The White Revolution was one of the biggest dairy development movements in India in 1970 to develop and help the dairy industry sustain itself economically by developing a co-operative and at the same time provide unadulterated milk and dairy products to people. Has it given the desired results? What is the dark side of White Revolution? An analysis by SUMAN and YK KALIA

The results of a first-of-its-kind survey on milk by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) reveal that 70 per cent milk samples collected across the country did not conform to the set standards. It found that most people are consuming detergents and other contaminants through milk.

The data released by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisation (FIAPO) too shows that humans who drink milk increase their chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other ailments. It is because of the horrifying state of cattle in 451 milk producing centres from India’s 10 leading milk producing states and demands immediate attention by the Centre and State Governments to regulate milk producing dairies. The FIAPO’s investigative report reveals how most cows raised in these dairies are intensively confined, leaving them unable to fulfill their most basic natural needs, such as nursing their calves, and are treated like milk-producing machines — genetically manipulated, pumped with antibiotics and hormones in order to produce more milk. While cows suffer in such set-ups, humans who drink their milk increase their chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other ailments.

Safety of milk

The unorganised and unregulated upkeep of dairy animals undoubtedly raises a question mark on the safety of the milk that these dairies produce as well as on the sustainability of India’s global leadership of milk production. Cattle are separated from calves (male calves die within the first week in 25% of dairies), receive little to no veterinary care and are injected with drugs procured illegally to induce sudden milk let-down in almost 50% of the dairies. Unproductive cattle are sold to economically weaker farmers for their personal use or the slaughterhouses by 62.9% dairies — both at low prices to earn meager sums of money from the final disposition. A snap shot National Survey on Milk Adulteration conducted to check the contaminants in milk, especially liquid milk, throughout the country found that due to lack of hygiene and sanitation in milk handling and packaging, detergents find their way into the milk. Many a time, detergents are deliberately added to milk. The survey report notes that the consumption of milk with detergents in hazardous to health.

About eight per cent samples were found to have detergents. Other contaminants like urea, starch, glucose and formalin, too, are used as adulterants. FSSAI tested a total of 1,791 samples.Water, it turns out, is the most common adulterant in milk. It reduces the nutritional value of milk, and if contaminated, water poses a health risk to consumers. Samples were collected from 28 states and five union territories. The worst performers were Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Mizoram, Jharkhand and Daman & Diu, where non-conformity with food safety standards was 100 per cent. The most common reason for non-compliance was found to be the large gap between demand and supply; the adulterants are mixed to increase the milk quantity. All of the 250 samples collected from the non-conforming eastern states contained detergent. Samples from Goa and Puducherry were 100 per cent compliant. 

Nearly 70 per cent samples did not conform to the standards set for milk. Of the total non-compliant samples, the highest, nearly 46 per cent, belonged to the category of low Solid Not Fat (SNF), and this was due to dilution of milk with water. Higher the SNF, better the quality of milk. Skimmed milk powder, generally used to increase volume of milk in lean season, was present in nearly 548 samples; of these 477 samples contained glucose.

Apart from fat, SNF, skimmed milk powder and glucose, the survey also looked for the presence of neutralisers, acidity, hydrogen peroxide, sugar, starch, urea, salt, detergent, formalin and vegetable salt. Studies show that adulterants like salt, detergents and glucose add to the thickness and viscosity of the milk, while starch prevents curdling of milk. The other synthetic compounds impair the functioning of various organs of the body, cause heart problems, cancer, and sometimes death. The immediate effect of drinking adulterated milk containing urea, caustic soda and formalin is gastroenteritis, but the long term effects are known to be far more serious. 

Punjab shows dismal record

Reports from Punjab, the leader among India’s major milk-producing states, with around 36 million litres of it produced daily and per capita milk availability of 1,035 millilitres a day suggest that over 60 per cent of the milk and milk product samples tested as part of a drive against food adulteration failed quality tests recently. Thousands of quintals of spurious milk, paneer, ghee and khoya have been seized since the drive was launched about a month ago.

KS Pannu, Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, and director of Tandurust Punjab Mission, who is leading the campaign against adulteration, confirmed that the milk and milk products in the state were suspected to be adulterated or spurious. A large number of units in Punjab are engaged in manufacturing low-quality, misbranded, spurious and adulterated milk and milk products. “Till now, 1,424 samples have been collected and approximately 60 per cent have failed quality tests.” He told, “Ensuring unadulterated food, especially milk and milk products, is one of the important components of Tandrust Punjab Mission. Pure food is the right of citizens.”

“The Punjab government is reviewing the law, and after examining all aspects of the law, including the issue related to punishment to offenders, the matter will be referred to the Union government for amendment of the act,” he said.

India is the largest producer of milk in the world with over 150 million tonnes of production. India has actually been the world’s top milk-producing country since 1997, but in the year 2014, for the first time, it beat the entire European Union. On a country basis, after India, the US produces the most milk, and China comes in third. Our per capita availability of milk is over 300 grams per day which is more than the world average of 294 grams per day.

Total milk production increased from 51.33 Million Tonnes during 2016-17 to 53.77 Million Tonnes during 2017-18. In fact the Milk production in the country during 2016-17 had achieved a remarkable progress by showing 20.13% growth as compared to 2013-14. Further, the production is estimated to keedp up its momentum towards the projected target of National Action Plan for Dairy Development. The first five highest milk producing States during Summer Season 2017-were Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh.

However, spurred by rising incomes, a growing population and changing food preferences, the demand for milk and milk products will grow to at least 210 million tonnes by 2021–22, a rise of 36% over five years, according to government estimates. To boost milk yield, India would need to generate 1,764 million tonnes of fodder by 2020, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of government data. But existing sources can only manage about 900 million tonnes of fodder–a shortage of 49%. The availability and quality of fodder has a direct bearing on the quantity and quality of milk productivity, the data show. All the three states that topped milk productivity in terms of gram per day–Rajasthan (704), Haryana (877) and Punjab (1,032)–had earmarked more than 10% of their cultivable land for pastures, according to the 2015 SOIL report. The national average is 337.

Stringent law proposed

In the meanwhile, those adulterating food products could face life imprisonment and penalty of up to 10 lakh as per the amendments proposed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has recommended stringent punishment to curb food adulteration following the Supreme Court order.  The regulator has asked all its state and union territories enforcement divisions to strengthen checks on milk producers to ensure they are complying with the Food Safety and Standards Act. The World Health Organization gave the Government of India an advisory warning, stating that without adequate tracking of milk adulteration, 87 percent of citizens could be at risk of developing serious diseases, such as cancer, by the year 2025.