“Also the quality of water that is mixed in the milk is dubious. They obviously don’t add filtered water in the milk. This is a recipe for death”
IRSHAD SALIM (Oct 12, 2018): Consider this: Despite the country being third largest milk producer in the world, Pakistanis pay less for petrol (our largest import) than milk (a home-grown commodity); only five to six percent of the total milk produced is preserved, processed and brought to market, while the remaining 94% of the fresh milk, with a shelf life of few hours, never reaches the consumers. And packaged milk is priced more than twice as expensive compared to average international prices.
Lack of quality checks is the most neglected aspect of the whole system, it has emerged. Dovetailing the issue, according to industry observers, is the lack of cold supply chain: an integrated system of storage, transportation and distribution of perishable and temperature-sensitive commodities.
Compounding this public safety issue are existing laws, which have also become obsolete and need to be revised, reported the Daily Times this week.
According to their investigative report, several hundred tea stalls and hotels in capital Islamabad are using toxic milk for making tea and for selling to the general public.
The paper’s investigation on the quality of milk being supplied in major parts of the capital revealed disturbing facts, unhealthy, unsafe practices.
The investigation focused on a dairy firm which supplies 22,000 kilograms of milk daily at a price of Rs 40 to different sectors including G9, G8, G7, G6, F6, F7, F8, F10, I-8, I9, I10, H8 and H9 sectors as well as the Blue Area, Bari Imam, Bara Kahu and other rural areas of the capital.
Samples of milk were transferred for a biological test to a dairy technology laboratory called the National Agricultural Research Center (NARC) Chak Shahzad where a food scientist Dr Haider put the milk for an assessment for two consecutive days in order to identify the milk’s condition.
Lactometer Reading — the basis on which ratio of water is checked in milk showed the following: The ratio of water in the milk provided to general customers is 22 percent while the ratio of water in the milk provided to the hotel industry is 14 percent.
According to Punjab Pure Food (PPF), the minimum ratio of fats required in milk is minimum 5 percent, but both types of milk lag behind in giving consumers that. The ratio of fats in the assessed milk for general customers was 2.7 percent while 0.8 percent was found in the milk supplied to the hotel industry.
According to PPF, the ratio of solids found in milk should be 14 percent. However, the dairy firm’s milk showed only 9.48 percent of solids found in the milk being given to the general public and only 5.18 percent of solids in milk being handed over to the hotel industry.
The dairy firm’s milk samples assessed at the NARC were found to be “very poor”. The hotel industry’s milk samples failed to curdle while dairy form milk sample showed poor curdling.
Dr Haider has been working in the food standard department for a long time. Talking exclusively to the paper, he informed that unfortunately there are no well-equipped labs in the country which would show chemicals and expired milk results.
“Such contaminated milk is smuggled from different countries to Pakistan but only we can check the ratio of fats, solids and water in the milk as well as some other stuff,” he said, adding that it is a known fact that expired milk is smuggled from India and other countries on low prices to mix with fresh milk in the Pakistani market. He confirmed that chemicals are mixed in milk to provide to the people.
Pakistan produces 54 billion liters of milk annually and the dairy sector contributes about 11 percent to the national Gross Domestic Product with loose milk supply holding almost 90 percent of the market share while packaged milk is between 10 and 12 percent.
According to a research paper published by the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council, adulterants like formalin, cane sugar, glucose, benzoic acid and alkalinity are also found in well-reputed brands of ultra high temperature milk sold in Pakistan. Lack of quality checks is the most neglected aspect of the whole system. Additionally, lack of cold supply chain: an integrated system of storage, transportation and distribution of perishable and temperature-sensitive commodities.
To avoid interference from concerned authorities, the dairy firm supplies milk at odd time – before dawn and after sunset, the paper’s investigation showed. Even the vehicles in charge of supplying this contaminated milk are in shabby condition. After 2am, the dairy firm finds the liberty to add tap water in the milk. This toxic milk is provided to some of the most reputed hotels of Islamabad.
An owner of a dairy firm in Islamabad, also while talking exclusively to the paper, informed that the Food Department is complicit in these practices as it keeps its shares in all the profits, hence its silence can be explained.
“The Federal Investigation Authority as well as the National Accountability Bureau should take immediate action against them,” he said, wishing anonymity.
Nutritionist Dr Shamshad said that even in this day and age, Pakistan doesn’t have access to a high tech scientific lab where all the chemicals mixed in milk could be identified.
“Also the quality of water that is mixed in the milk is dubious. They obviously don’t add filtered water in the milk. This is a recipe for death,” he said.
There’s already the burning issue of high quantity (70% to 80% above safe limits) of arsenic in water in the country specially in major cities of Lahore, Karachi and Hyderabad, according to the WHO. Another alarming issue is nutrition deficiency in the country — close to 46 percent — highest in the region, and leading to stunting growth rate of 45 percent among children under five years of age. All these in the world’s fifth-largest country that boasts having state-of-the-art motorways, cutting-edge safe cities and modern RLNG-based power plants.
Pakistan can build ports, dams and economic corridors seamlessly but finds it hard to feed our children well and produce safe drinking water and milk. It’s a billion dollar question for ‘Naya Pakistan’ thought leaders and their governments at the Center and provinces.
(The author is a business & construction consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb, DesPardes and BE2C2 Report)