How healthy is your toned milk?

There was a time when milk was considered as the best food for human health. Not anymore. In 2012, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the national food regulator conducted a test on milk across the country and found them adulterated. Out of 1,791 samples taken from 33 states, only 32% were found to be in conformity with food laws. The remaining 68% failed. Water was found to be the most common adulterant.

With increasing instances of milk being adulterated with water, vegetable oils, detergents, caustic soda, urea, starch, blotting paper and other unknown items, consumers are fast switching to toned milk. They take branded toned milk as safe, healthy and nutritious. Is it so? Take a look at the results of the tests conducted by the Voluntary Organisation in the Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE), a New Delhi-based consumer group.

VOICE tested nine popular brands of packaged toned milk on a range of quality, safety and acceptability parameters. These included milk fat, milk solids not fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, calcium and vitamin.

The brands included Ananda, DMS (Delhi Milk Scheme), Kwality, Heritage, Mother Dairy and Amul. The tests were conducted at National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited laboratory. The samples were tested as per FSSAI regulations 2011 and relevant Indian Standards.

Packaged milk can be categorised into three according to fat and solids-not-fat (SNF) contents. First is full-cream milk which has a fat content of 6% and SNF 9%. The second is toned milk with 3% fat and 8.5% SNF. The third category is double-toned milk with a fat content of 1.5% and with 9% SNF.

Toned milk is a product prepared by admixture of cow or buffalo milk or both with fresh skimmed milk that has been standardised for fat and SNF. Consumers are more worried about fats. The fat content of milk is the proportion of milk made up of butterfat.

As per Indian Standards and FSS regulations, fat content of toned milk should not be less than 3% by mass. While all the brands put to test met the minimum requirement for fat contents, the highest was found in DMS with 3.30%. Other brands like Amul, Paras and Kwality just fulfilled the minimum requirement. As per Indian Standards, the SNF should not be less than 8.5% by mass. All brands met this requirement but SNF, again, was highest in DMS with 8.7%.

Vitamin A is essential for good health, particularly for the eyes and skin, and milk is a rich source of Vitamin A. It was highest in Kwality followed by Ananda. It was lowest in Namaste India and Paras. Calcium is another ingredient required for building stronger, denser bones. Its content was highest in Namaste India followed by Heritage. It was lowest in Amul.

Mention the word cholesterol and consumers get frightened. However, all cholesterol is not bad and its intake should not exceed 300 mg/day. Among the brands tested, Paras had the lowest cholesterol content (66.70 mg/100 ml) followed by Heritage (69.80 mg/100 ml) while Namaste brand had the highest with 82.80mg/100 ml.

No adulteration

The good news is that none of the toned milk brands were adulterated. The brands were tested for presence of adulterants like neutraliser, detergent, urea, formaldehyde and melamine. Similarly, tests were conducted for presence of heavy metals. As per FSS regulations, lead should not be more than 2 ppm and arsenic not more that 1 ppm. All brands conformed with these standards.

They all also passed the test conducted for the presence of alkaline phosphatase (ALP). The total plate count is a measure of the biological activity in milk supply, of all bacteria that will grow in aerobic conditions. As per FSS regulations, the total plate count should not be more than 30000/grams at plant level. None of the brands exceeded the specified limits.

The presence of coliform bacteria in pasteurised milk indicates that there were unsanitary conditions or practices after pasteurisation and before packing in the milk plant itself. These bacteria are destroyed at a temperature of about 46 degrees C, which means pasteurisation can easily eliminate them to a certain number. All brands cleared this test.

Methylene blue reduction time (MBRT) is an indicative test to check the bacterial load in milk. As per Indian Standards, the MBR time is not less than five hours. Except for Paras, all other brands met the requirements of MBRT.

(The writer is Member, Central Consumer Protection Council) 

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