The survey, however, found slightly less than 10% samples had contaminants coming mainly from poor farm practices.
This is by far the largest systematic survey of milk both in terms of sample size and numbers of parameters (4 quality parameters, 12 adulterants; and 4 contaminants – 93 antibiotic residues, 18 pesticides residues, Aflatoxin M1 and Ammonium Suphate).
Samples that failed in the qualitative tests were quantitatively analysed. Geo-tagging of samples and photo-documentation of samples were done to ensure proper traceability to establish a robust and a continuous monitoring system.
Nearly one-third of the samples that failed for safety parameters were analysed quantitatively in high end laboratory of the survey agency. The survey was conducted over a period of 6 months between May to October, 2018. 41% (2607) samples were for processed milk and remaining 59% (3825) were of raw milk.
Of the processed milk, 60% were toned milk, 20% full-cream milk, 15% standard milk and 5% double toned milk. Of the raw milk, one third each were samples of cow, buffalo and mixed milk. The survey covered only liquid milk and not the milk products. The survey also did not cover microbiological examination of the samples.
The key findings of the survey are as follows:
- Milk in India is largely free from adulterants that render it unsafe for consumption. Merely 12 (out of a total of 6,432) samples had adulterants that affect the safety of milk. The occurrence of such adulterants is insignificant considering the sample size in the survey.
- There is no concern at all due to pesticides residues. Only 1.2% of the samples failed on account of antibiotics residues above tolerance level and it was mainly due to oxy-tetracycline used to treat animals with bovine mastitis.
- This is the first survey that analysed contaminants including residues of pesticides, antibiotics, Aflatoxin and Ammonium sulphate in milk. Less than 10% (638 out of 6,432 samples) had contaminants that make milk unsafe for consumption as per the survey. In all these cases, milk is getting contaminated due to poor quality of feed, irresponsible use of antibiotics and poor farm practices.
- Further, quantitative analysis suggests that this problem is not serious. It is restricted to few pockets and in some states. Hence, the country would be able to address this concern by targeted awareness building activities and monitoring of primary production over a period of time.
- As far as raw milk is concerned, it must be stated that this could be either due to breed of cattle, its feed and rearing practices or due to dilution of milk with water. Addition of water in itself is not a safety issue unless there is concern about the quality of water added that calls for detailed microbiological examination.
- Since, in most cases, liquid milk is boiled and then consumed, public health risk due to microbiological contamination is minimal.