A new technology to analyse and detect milk adulteration has been developed by CSIR-Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-CEERI), Pilani. This technology is based on acquiring electrochemical fingerprint coupled with multivariate data analysis techniques. There are no systems currently available even globally, based on similar methods. This innovation represents the first fully Indian â€˜concept to implementationâ€™ effort in instrumentation related to milk and dairy, addressing an unmet need.
The R&D work was started on the basis of industry requirement in the dairy sector and reports/survey available during the time in electronic and print media. According to the recent reports, over 68 per cent of milk in the country does not conform to the standards set by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) based on the national vide survey conducted by FSSAI in 2011. According to the FSSAI 2011 survey, the most common adulterant was found to be the water, besides, other adulterants such as glucose, skimmed milk powder, urea, detergent, refined oil, caustic soda and white paint, which, according to the study, are â€˜very hazardousâ€™ to human life and can cause serious diseases.
Deeper understanding of the role of milk in human health, as a critical component has stimulated interest in the development of the present cost-effective technology. The adoption and deployment of the innovation in as many villages and milk societies possible would be a step forward in enhancing and implementing the standards and quality of milk. Besides it can help in generating employment. The technology excels in its ability to detect known and unknown milk adulteration and has a great potential to be used widely in the dairy industry. This technology has been transferred to two industries, namely Rajasthan Electronics & Instruments (REIL), Jaipur in December 2012 and Alpine Technologies, Surat in December 2015 for manufacturing and commercialisation. REIL has manufactured system based on the technology costing around INR 70,000 to INR 100,000. The other industry is in the process of setting up manufacturing facilities. The recurring cost for testing a milk sample through this new technology is around INR 0.05 – 0.10. The sample measurement time is nearly 40-45 seconds.
Two Indian patents (Ministry of Science & Technology, March 2016)Â were filed related to this innovation:
- P C Panchariya, A H Kiranmayee & S Raghunath, â€˜A novel method and a system based on voltammetry for characterisation and discrimination of liquidsâ€™ India, 0568/DEL/ 2010A.
- P C Panchariya, A H Kiranmayee, R S Chouhan, & P Bhanu Prasad, â€˜A method and system for detection of synthetic milk in natural milkâ€™, India, 0198/DEL/2013A.
Efforts are on to enhance the deployment of the technology
Milk adulteration can be deliberate i.e. to increase profits, or it could occur due to lack of knowledge or a sense of hygiene. Some common signs that give away the fact that the milk is adulterated are changes in the taste of milk, lessened creaminess of milk, and no boiling over of milk but milk that continues boiling inside the vessel. Adulterers with nefarious motives add certain substances that are meant to improve the viscosity, taste and density of milk, some of which are called solid non-fats (SNFs) that make up for the natural fats in the milk, such that the milk passes the lactometer test. The lactometer test is used to check the quality of milk by on the basis of its density by measuring its specific gravity. Many common milk adulterants such as starch, urea, formalin, dextrose, sucrose, glucose, skimmed milk powder, salt, detergent and neutralizers such as Na2CO3, NaOH, etc are used to allow adulterated milk to pass the lactometer test (M.D. Bhaskaran, 2015). Â Preservatives used in milk can also lead to adverse health effects, such as hydrogen peroxide, which is used to retard the souring of milk, but can have harmful effects on the health in the long term.
Â Health Risks
The Indian Council of Medical Research states that the use of milk adulterants like detergents, and also caustic soda can cause food poisoning and gastro-intestinal ailments. The other synthetic compounds used as adulterants in milk can lead to heart problems, cancer, organ-damage, and in some cases even death. Apart from the long term effects, the most immediate effect of milk adulterated with formalin, caustic soda and urea is gastroenteritis (M.D. Bhaskaran, 2015).
Â Some Common Contaminants and Testing Techniques
Some of the most commonly used milk adulterants include milk from other milk producing animals, vegetable protein, whey and water (Fischer, Schilter, Tritscher & Stadler, 2011). Although these adulterants are commercially exploited for nefarious purposes, they do not pose as severe a health risk as however, some other adulterants that can have severe health effects. These include detergents, urea, ammonium sulphate, hydrogen peroxide, caustic soda, sugars, melamine, formalin, rosalic acid, salicylic acid and benzoic acid.
Common home remedies for testing milk adulteration are difficult for most of the harmful substances added to milk, and tests for most of the substances require chemicals that are not commonly available to the home user. However home-remedies are possible for certain substances used in the milk adulteration.
The following are some home-remedies available for certain substances used in the adulteration of milk (S. Dawange, 2016) â€“
- Water â€“ In what is the most basic test, a sample of milk can be tested for water by dropping a drop of the sample on a polished and slanting surface. If the drop flows slowly and leaves a white trail, the sample can be said to contain less water, but if the drop runs off immediately, the sample contains water.
- Starch â€“ Take a few ml of milk and add a few drops of iodine. If the mixture turns blue in colour, then the sample is adulterated with starch.
- Detergent â€“ If shaking 5 to 10 ml of a milk sample with an equal amount of water produces lather, then the sample contains detergent.
- Synthetic Milk â€“ The taste of synthetic milk is bitter, and is soapy if rubbed between the fingers. It turns yellowish when heated.
- Urea â€“ Mix a teaspoon of milk and a half teaspoon of arhar or soybean powder in a test tube by shaking the mixture. After this, dip a red litmus paper for half a minute. If the colour of the red litmus paper turns blue, there is urea in the milk sample.
Governmental and Regulatory Environment
On January 2012, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) published the executive summary of the National Survey on the Adulteration of Milk on their website. The survey was based on random samples of milk taken from 33 Indian states and the total sample size was 1,791. Out of the total samples analyzed, about 32 per cent passed in accordance with food safety laws in India, whereas the remaining 68 per cent did not, and could be said to be harmful to human health. The most common adulterant was found to be water, which the report said could potentially lead to the spread of water-borne illnesses. Water as an adulterant was followed by skimmed milk powder with high levels of glucose in 87 per cent of these. The survey also found the presence of detergent in milk (FSSAI, 2012).
The power to enforce the Food Safety and Standards Act lies with the various State / UT governments wherein the FSSAI regularly communicates with representatives from the various State / UT governments and also during meetings of the Central Advisory Committee. The FSSAI in April 2016 distributed Electronic Milk Adulteration Testers (EMATs) to three States / UTs, namely, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Chandigarh (UT) and is planning the more expansive National Milk Quality Survey (MQS) in about 120 cities across India that is to be extended to all the States and Union Territories. More than 1,700 samples will be tested for fat and SNF content along with 13 common adulterants (FSSAI, 2017).
The technology for analyzing milk adulteration developed by CSIR-CEERI that is based on identifying electrochemical fingerprints has not however, been used to generate survey results as yet and no institution for testing adulteration of milk based on this technology has been established.