Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

[op-ed snap] Safe, but not entirely


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.
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