Whether you are in New Delhi or in rural Bihar, you may want to think twice before you have a glass of milk: it’s likely to be adulterated.
A recent study by India’s food safety regulator found that 68.4% of milk samples examined didn’t meet its standards. While most samples had been diluted with water, skimmed milk powder or sweeteners, some revealed more unpleasant surprises.
Detergent, hydrogen peroxide and even urea are just some of the substances you may have ingested last time you had milk.
The most alarming findings came from West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand, where detergent was found in all milk samples examined by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
For West Bengal, this adds to the state’s already appalling health and safety record. Last month, at least 170 people there died after drinking bootleg alcohol laced with methanol and around 90 people died after a fire broke out in a hospital in Kolkata, the state’s capital.
Other Indian states fared almost as badly. Although they didn’t show traces of detergent, none of the samples of milk collected in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram, met the standards set by the regulator.
On the other extreme were Goa and Puducherry. The study, which randomly collected samples of packed and loose milk in rural and urban areas across Indian states, found that none of the milk collected there had been adulterated.
City dwellers have more to worry about than rural folks. In urban areas, 68.9% of milk samples had been adulterated, compared to 31% of samples in rural areas. New Delhi’s milk appears to be worse than others, with the regulator finding that 70% of samples collected in the capital contained substances other than milk.
Buying packed milk doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. While it’s a safer bet than loose milk delivered by the “doodhwalla,” one in three packed milk samples in cities were found to be adulterated.
This isn’t the first time India’s poor milk quality has come under the spotlight. In 2008, six teenagers died of food poisoning in the eastern state of Jharkhand after drinking sour milk at their boarding school.
Neighboring China has an even worse record when it comes to dairy products. A few weeks ago, Chinese milk producers vowed to enforce tougher oversight measures after high levels of carcinogen was found in a batch of milk.