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31 May, 2019 12:24:32 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 31 May, 2019 12:28:17 PM

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Most Bangladeshis drinking unsafe milk

There is no alternative to introducing modern technologies to combat milk adulteration, as the practice is very rampant in Bangladesh
Syed Mehdi Momin
Most Bangladeshis drinking unsafe milk

Sometime back a National Food Safety Laboratory (NFSL) report said that molecular analysis found Total Plate Counts (TPC) and Coliform Counts (CC) above permissible limits in 93 out of 96 samples of raw milk, and salmonella in one sample. Chemical analysis also found, above permissible limits, pesticides in nine samples, lead in five, aflatoxin in three, tetracycline in 10 and ciprofloxacin in one.

This basically mean than the milk being drunk in this country is basically not fit for human consumption.

 As children, we were often told that drinking milk regularly will make us stronger. And so many of us however unwillingly drank a glass, may be sweetened by a malt and chocolate mix. But does that advice really hold today. With rising concerns surrounding food safety, we need to re-look at and be cautious about something which we consume every day. A huge percentage of milk consumed here is adulterated.

Adulteration of milk in some form or the other has been going on for ages.  However in the earlier days usually the adulteration was limited to the neighbourhood milkman (goala) mixing water with milk to increase its volume and earn a few more bucks. However the last couple of decades have witnessed unscrupulous milk traders stooping to the lowest possible level to earn money, literally at any costs.

Right in the hub of milk producing areas of the country including Pabna and Sirajganj, dangerous chemicals and other spurious objects are being used to virtually manufacture “milk” and “milk products”. This "chemical" milk contains bleaching powder, urea (the chief solid component in mammalian urine), washing powder, hair removing powder, starch and other noxious chemicals. Not simply content with this dangerous practice they are using formalin (which as is widely known is a chemical used to preserve dead bodies and body parts) to prolong the shelf life of these so-called milk products.

What is most alarming is the fact these products are getting into packaged milks of reputable companies. The doctors and even the media in general in Bangladesh portray packaged milk as healthful and encourage parents to feed these products to their children. It is easy to assume that the tetra pack milk being sold in various parts of the country is not only substandard, but harmful to human life. If there are such harmful ingredients in packaged milk the future of the new generation is at peril. Another dangerous trend has developed in recent years among the dairy farmers and that is to inject growth hormone to dairy animals to increase milk production. The traces of this hormone are found in the milk consumed by human beings.

Milk (of course when it is pure) is one of most ideal sources of protein and other nutrients essential to both adults and particularly to children. Besides protein milk also contain carbohydrate, fat, lots of vitamins, minerals, etc. The adulteration is causing diseases like cancer, hepatitis, typhoid and hypertension among the citizens.

Prompt steps must be taken to cancel the licenses or seal the factories of adulterated food manufacturers. Exemplary punishment should be meted out to whoever is responsible in the whole process. It is true that if there are ample facilities to store and preserve milk adulteration may come down. Proper vigilance and mass awareness campaign is also required to stop these health endangering activities.

With increase in population, decrease in grazing land- the natural equilibrium between demand and supply disturbed alarmingly so human beings adopted unhealthy measures to increase the quantity of milk. It happens all over the world but there are differences of degree and types of adulteration. What is going on in Bangladesh is that people are being virtually forced to drink poison in the name of milk.

There is also the problem of storage and preservation as the milk collectors collect milk at night, store it and add antiseptics (hydrogen peroxide, formalin, penicillin, hair removing powder, borax, etc.) to avoid growth of pathogens, then they also add chilling agent like urea, ice, ammonium sulphate, etc. and finally they add preservatives like baking soda, caustic soda, to neutralise lactic acid produced in larger amount in case of spoilage.

Another serious issue that is often ignored is the widespread practice of injecting cows with hormones which enhances the production of milk to about 50 per cent. It means a milkman will get 7.5 Kg milk instead of 5Kg. So this extra 2.5 Kg of milk allures milkman to use hormones which brings early puberty in female, result in premature births; low IQ of children, etc.

The age-old practice of adding water to increase the quantity of milk continues.

Yet another reason behind adulteration is to improve milk’s cosmetic appearance, taste and odour, etc. Detergents give foamy appearance, bleaching powder removes colours and restores natural brightness; penicillin enhances thickness and fragrance and sweetening agent are added to give a slight sweet taste.

If we make a list, there are as many as 25 adulterants and all affects human health by one way or another. For example take one adulterant “formalin” which is primarily used in biological laboratory to preserve biological specimens and is a powerful antiseptic. Formaldehyde was declared toxic substance by the 1999 Canadian Environmental Protection Act. In human, the ingestion of formaldehyde causes vomiting, abdominal pain, corrosion of gastrointestinal tract, allergy, dizziness; damage of liver and in many cases can cause death. In 2011, the US National Toxicology Programme described Formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogenic”. Ingestion of 30 ml of solution containing 37 per cent formaldehyde has been reported to cause death in as adult man.

Milk is a sole natural food for infants for first few months of life and source of good quality nutrient for adults and the elderly. The number of people who consume loose milk is alarming. Many consumers in urban areas prefer to buy loose milk from milk vendors due to the mistaken perception that loose milk is fresh. What they are unaware of is the fact that loose milk is exposed to the maximum amount of contamination as it is manually handled and standards of quality are not met.

Lax attitude of civic bodies and regulators in stopping adulteration in milk is playing havoc with the health of consumers making them vulnerable to many dangerous diseases besides keeping the majority of the children underweight.

It is vital that we find a regular source of unadulterated milk. Some of the ways of preventing this is to boil the milk to remove the bacteria but by doing so we also kill good bacteria present in the milk and reduce its nutritional value. The best option is opt for milk processed with Ultra High Temperature (UHT) technology as it is the safest and most reliable option. UHT milk retains more nutritional value and exhibits more natural texture, colour and taste. The aseptic packaging provides unparalleled protection ensuring food that is pure, fresh and hygienically packaged and very difficult to tamper with.

There is no alternative to introducing modern technologies to combat milk adulteration, as the practice is very rampant in Bangladesh. The level of adulteration shows the trade off between the risk of getting caught and the 'reward' of huge profits is skewed heavily in favour of the latter. The government must focus on raising the risks to the adulterator. One way of doing this is by hiking the penalty, including making it analogous to attempt to murder in extreme cases. It's equally important to regularly check milk for adulteration and ensure speedy trials.

The writer is the Senior Assistant Editor of The Independent

IK

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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