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The problem of adulteration of milk and milk products

Updated: Category: Caution & Alerts
Author: Member Level: GoldPoints: 20

This article explains about the adulterants used in milk and milk products. The commonly used adulterants are water, preservatives and chemicals such as urea, hydrogen peroxide, starch and chalk powder. It explains about the importance of consumer awareness and food safety techniques.

Food is essential for sustenance of life. In some societies, every food has some cultural and religious significance also. For example, milk has a religious sanctity in the Hindu traditions. But the "get-rich-quick" attitude of some greedy traders tempt them to tamper with food items when their margins of profit begin to decrease due to the procurement policy of the government. They resort to all sorts of adulteration of foods including baby foods. Therefore, adulteration of food has assumed proportions of a major health menace. Food safety, in general, is so vast a subject that it could not be accommodated in the present article. Rather, our discussion may be limited to the adulteration of milk in particular.

A majority of people in India are vegetarians and they are dependent upon milk for their nutritional needs. Children need milk for growth and elders need it to replenish their nutrition on daily basis. But the question is whether the milk we consume is safe and free from contamination. The answer is an emphatic 'NO'. The irony is that India has the reputation of being the world's largest producer of milk thanks to the successful implementation of the "Operation Flood Program" leading to the White Revolution Of India. Yet, the situation today is not heartening with regard to the quality of milk and milk products.

Often we hear and read news about adulteration of baby foods including milk not only in India but also in some of the civilized countries. We cannot forget the infamous milk scandal that broke in September 2008 in Gansu Province of the Republic of China when sixteen infants were sickened with kidney stones after they had been fed on formula milk contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. But the Chinese type of milk scandal is not a case in isolation;such stories of contamination of milk have happened and are happening in our country also. Let us see how milk is adulterated:

1. Milk may be adulterated by adding water. Diluting milk with pure water may lead only to malnutrition;but adding impure water may cause intestinal problems.

2. Another method of adulteration is by addition of coloring matter. The white color of the milk is due to the presence fat globules ;when the milk is watered down, it loses its creaminess and color.

3. Another method of adulteration is by adding preservatives. Sodium bicarbonate and boric acid are added to milk and milk products to keep them from going sour.

The other common adulterants that are added to milk are chalk powder, soap powder, starch, hydrogen peroxide and urea.

Know about SNF

SNF refers to Solid Not fat. Milk contain solids like minerals, lactose and proteins apart from the milk fat content. So all the above mentioned solids is called as SNF. The milk solids along with the milk fat is called as total solids.

Starch is added to milk to thicken the milk and to increase the 'solid not fat' content of the milk. Adding starch deprives the other nutrients present in milk. It is shocking to hear that soap powder is added to increase the lather in double toned milk. When milk is transported in cans it is very much important that it is not spoiled. In order to preserve the milk, urea is added to it. The other adulterants added are hydrogen peroxide and sodium bicarbonate. Hydrogen peroxide and sodium bicarbonate are added to prevent the milk from getting spoiled, sour and to remove the dirt from it. But unfortunately we cannot find any of these names in the packet of the milk as they are classified as neutralizers. Milk which is adulterated in any form is very much harmful to both adults and children.

How to detect the adulterant?

Lactometer is used to detect the water content added to milk. It is detected by measuring the specific gravity of milk.

Tackle the menace of adulteration of milk

Thanks to globalization and economic liberalization, the consumer market is virtually a buyer's market;the market is flooded with tons of food items and the consumer is at his wits end to select an item of food due to the misleading advertisement, false statement about the source of ingredients on the wrapper of the food product and finally chance upon an adulterated item and suffers silently without making any fuss over it.

The implementation and observance of the following suggestions would be very much needed.
1. Need to create awareness about food safety and services.

2. There should be a proactive approach to eradicate adulteration.

3. More testing laboratories with sophisticated technology to meet the current situations.

4. Buying milk from reputed sources.
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