From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Food safety
The “most comprehensive and representative” milk safety and quality survey has demolished the perception of large-scale milk adulteration in India.
Data from the survey
- It was undertaken on 6,432 samples collected last year between May and October.
- It was picked from over 1,100 towns /cities with over 50,000 population.
- The survey was done by an independent agency at the behest of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
- It was found that 93% of the samples were absolutely safe.
- The samples were tested for 13 common adulterants and three contaminants — pesticides, aflatoxin M1 and antibiotics.
- Only 12 adulterated samples were found to be unsafe for consumption.
- The adulterated samples were also subjected to confirmatory tests. They were from just three States: Telangana (nine), Madhya Pradesh (two) and Kerala (one).
- As per the survey, the quantitative analysis of all adulterated samples showed that the amount of adulterants and contaminants in the dozen samples was not high and “unlikely to pose a serious threat” to human health.
- It found 368 samples (5.7%) had aflatoxin M1 residues beyond the permissible limit of 0.5 microgram per kilogram.
- Compared with aflatoxin M1, antibiotics were seen above the permissible level in 77 samples, from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
- Aflatoxin M1 was more widely present in processed milk samples than in raw milk.
- This is the first time the presence of the contaminant in milk has been assessed.
- According to the FSSAI, aflatoxin M1 in milk is from feed and fodder, which is not regulated.
- According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer the contaminant has been classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
- Its carcinogenic potency is estimated to be about one-tenth of aflatoxin B1.
- The current survey has limited itself to milk. It is not clear how widespread aflatoxin M1 contamination is in milk products such as cheese.
- Aflatoxin M1 in milk and milk products is a public health concern especially in infants and young children as milk constitutes one of the major sources of nutrients.
- According to the World Health Organisation, exposure to aflatoxin M1 in milk and milk products is especially high in areas where the grain quality used as animal feed is poor.
- All attempts need to be taken both before and after food crop harvest to reduce the toxin amount.
- Improper storage of food harvest in warm and humid conditions lead to aflatoxin contamination that is much higher than what is seen in the field.
- It is important is to have facilities to regularly test for aflatoxin M1.