Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Are you a regular milk consumer? Of course who does not consume milk in one form or the other as a part of the daily diet, especially in a country like India where more than 75% of the population is vegetarian by birth or economic compulsions. It was not long ago that milk distribution was in the hands of the so called dairy farmers who supply liquid milk to each and every house-hold. As these milk suppliers are small, owning 1-12 cattle, their reach is also limited to a few house-holds near their area of dwelling. Many senior citizens of to day might not have forgotten the olden days when they were young, the very familiar sight of a cow or buffalo coming to their houses early morning, milking being done in front of them so that no water is added by the supplier and enjoying the taste of fresh milk. The Varghese Kurien-led white revolution ended this era with almost all urban families depending on factory processed pasteurized and packed milk delivered by milk agents with contract for distribution service from a central dairy.

It may be far from truth if one believes that the old milk supply mode has completely disappeared to day. In fact in many small towns and suburban areas small dairy farmers are still thriving either because consumers have logistical problems in accessing to processed milk or there is inadequate supply of the product in their area. These consumers have to depend on "fresh" milk supply from the local dairy owners and the delivery mode is through cans and other vessels and bottles. One of the advantages here is that the milk from the unorganized sector is always cheaper to the extent of 20% compared to that of packed milk. Though India is considered the top notch nation among the milk producers world over, the extent of milk production that goes through the organized sector is still not very substantial, bulk of it consumed locally without routing through the collection net work of organized dairy units.

Is it the economic reason the major consideration for the consumer to patronize local milk vendors or is there any other factor that weighs heavily in the minds of people to opt for local milk in preference to packed milk? It appears there is another important factor that drives people into the open arms of local milk vendors even in areas where packed milk is available. Many consumers walk to distant milk sources in order to buy "fresh" milk at any cost! This phenomenon is attributed to the "mindset" or the "obsession" of many consumers for freshly milked product which they think is much superior to pasteurized milk. It is a common India psyche that any food which is old is invariably inferior in taste and nutrition! There are many consumers to day who refuse to consume frozen foods because of the same belief. How far they are justified in nurturing such beliefs?

Pasteurization of milk is an innocuous science based process which neither destroys the freshness nor reduces the nutrition. Modern processes treat the fluid milk at high temperatures for a few seconds only and the heat input under a closed system is insufficient to affect the flavor or nutrients in any way. In fact this process improves the safety of milk dramatically by killing all disease causing microorganisms. It is conveniently forgotten by those proponents of fresh milk that when fresh milk is brought home it is subjected to "cooking" in a milk cooker for long time and they do not seem to be much bothered about its effect on flavor or nutrients by this extremely rigorous heating regime.

What about the quality of fresh milk supplied by the local vendors? If the food safety authority in India is to be believed more than 65% of milk vended loose are adulterated, mostly with water. But a significant proportion is also mixed with many injurious substances like urea, detergents, used oils etc putting the health of the consumer in jeopardy. It is a common knowledge that India is the pioneering country that perfected the "art" of counterfeiting animal milk using man made chemicals entirely, eliminating the need for a cow or a buffalo! What is perplexing is that unless such milk concoctions are analyzed in sophisticated laboratories, many consumers will never be able to find out truth. Those who separate cream every day for making butter and ghee can only find out whether the milk is pure or not. During the ghee making process, such milk samples yield voluminous residues which are more fluffy devoid of any flavor typically associated with pure milk.

If consumers are afraid of adulteration, it is advisable that milk is always purchased from organized dairy units, if accessible. To day pasteurized milk can be preserved for 48 hours if unopened under cooler conditions and sterilized milk with 6 months life can be very safe. With milk surplus being reported all over the country, it is imperative that the distribution net work of dairy processors is expanded with much more vigor so that it is accessible to every nook and corner of this country. The impetus for criminals to adulterate milk is provided by the less than dynamic management of hundreds of dairies in the country and uniformity of quality and conformation to national standards are invariably the casualty when it comes to products from some of the public dairies. But, in spite of all their inefficiencies, they still provide a bulwark against unsafe and dangerous milk duplicates being churned out by unscrupulous criminals masquerading as milk vendors!


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