Thursday, May 10, 2012

SC order on sale of safe milk sought

Five months after India’s food regulator exposed widespread adulteration of milk all over the country, a group of citizens have approached the Supreme Court seeking direction to ensure sale of safe and healthy milk to millions of Indians.
Referring to a recent survey  by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on adulteration of milk, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday sought the court’s intervention to secure supply of healthy, hygienic and natural milk for the citizens, including babies, diseased and the elderly, who depend on milk as their main source of nutrition.
The FSSAI survey revealed that out of 1,791 milk samples collected on random basis from different cities spread across 33 states, 1,226 were found to be unfit for human consumption. In other words, almost 68 per cent milk samples were found adulterated.Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand accounted for 88 per cent of adulterated milk samples.Alarmingly, the menace has  spread far and wide as the authority found adulterated milk in almost all the states and union territories. In seven states and union territories, not a single sample matched the regulatory standards.
Skimmed milk powder, glucose, fat, solid-not-fats and water were the common adulteration agents though presence of starch, urea, detergents and formalin were also noticed.

Addition of water, however, was the most common form of adulteration, reducing not only the nutritional value of the milk but also posing health risk to consumers if the water is contaminated.
Acting on a petition filed by Swami Achyutanand Tirth and seven others claiming serious health hazard from adulterated milk, a bench comprising  Chief Justice S H Kapadia and justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar issued notices to Central government as well as Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Rajasthan governments for their response.
“Various studies show that urea, detergent and caustic soda used in preparing the synthetic milk are dangerous to human life. Synthetic milk is also termed as white poison and in the opinion of doctors, it can cause serious diseases like cancer,” the petition contended.
“The milk is the only source of nourishment for infants and one of the major diets for growing children in tender age. The havoc which can be created in the health of children by drinking synthetic milk is really terrifying,” the PIL added. It also wanted the apex court to issue direction to rule out sale of ghee, mawa and cheese prepared with harmful materials.
The FSSAI survey further showed that majority of milk samples collected from 19 states and UTs did not conform to the food safety standards “However, it does not mean they are unsafe and dangerous to drink,” FSSAI chief executive officer V N Gaur had stated after releasing the survey in January this year.
While four large southern states – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu – together with Madhya Pradesh and Chandigarh were better performers, rest of the country projected a dismal picture.
As much as 14 per cent samples were found to have been contaminated with detergents, which might be coming through poor cleaning of milk containers. Detergent-laden milk samples were reported from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Bengal.
Other states with very high level of milk adulteration include Gujarat, Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana and Maharashtra.

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