Srinagar: The packed milk sold in Jammu and Kashmir is not pure cow milk but processed one, the J&K High Court has directed companies marketing it to inform general public.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Justices Hasnain Massodi and Dhiraj Singh Thakur also directed Commissioner, Food Safety, shall constitute a committee of three to four experts to visit M/S Khyber Agro Milk Farms and file a detailed report about it.
“As there is a general impression that what is sold in the market by M/S Khyber Agro and other companies, is pure cow’s milk, (they) shall inform general public through print media that what is sold by them is not pure cow’s milk but processed milk,” the bench said.
The companies, court said, shall also notify the source of milk marketed as well as mode and manner in which marketed milk is processed.
The direction by the court followed submission by senior advocate Z A Shah, representing that his clients—owners of M/S Khyber Milk Farms—do not have a diary farm and that milk and milk products it markets are processed in the processing unit run by the company.
Advocate Shah stated that none of the companies in the state and in particular in Kashmir division runs a diary farm and what is sold in the market is processed milk.
Advocate Shah further stated that M/S Khyber Agro Milk Farms imports Buffalo milk from outside, mixes it with cow’s milk, produced locally from the farmers in some areas of Pulwama district and makes the milk homogenous in its milk plants, to maintain ratio of fats and solid non-fats (SNF) components.
He said that when milk production in the area is more than the milk marketed, the excess milk is converted into milk powder and used in a season with less production to maintain ratio between production and demand.
“The statement (by advocate shah) raises a number of important issues. Whether M/S Khyber Agro farms has a milk processing plant conforming to prescribed standards to process the milk, whether the plant is equipped with necessary laboratory to test the milk received from milk producers of the area and buffalo milk imported from outside state and whether milk procured and imported corresponds to volume to the milk marketed and whether residents have a plant satisfying required prescribed standards to convert milk into milk powder, and whether milk and milk powder is used within its shelf life and steps taken to ensure that milk powder is stored in prescribed manner before its use,” the court observed.
In this background, the bench directed Commissioner, Food Safety, to constitute committee of three to four experts to inspect milk processing unit run by M/S Khyber Agro Milk Farms and submit a detailed report.
The committee, the bench said, shall comprise of Deputy Controller Drugs, Kashmir and diary experts or technologists from SKUAST; Abdul Wahid, former District and Sessions Judge, amongst its members to inspect the milk processing unit run by M/S Khyber Agro Milk Farms in the first place.
“The experts shall submit comprehensive report on by next date of hearing,” the bench added.
The court was hearing the PIL—Sheikh Ayoub Vs State— seeking implementation of Food Safety and Standard Act 2006 (FSSA) to check food adulteration in the state.
The bench also directed Food Safety Officers, Designated Officers and all those involved in implementation of the Food Safety Act to “pull up their socks, hone up machinery and speed up lifting and analysis of samples and food items, transported, manufactured, stored and marketed in the state without showing any leniency to big players in the market so that food items free from adulteration are made available to consumers.”
The court also directed the government to submit comprehensive report regarding samples lifted from January 1 to till date—first quarter of the year, indicating number of samples referred to notified laboratories/referral laboratories and the result of analysis and action taken.
“Incharge Food Analysis Laboratory at Srinagar and Jammu shall submit information regarding capacity of two laboratories set up to analyse samples and the number of samples two laboratories can handle a year having regard to machinery, infrastructure and manpower.”
In another direction, the bench directed Commissioner Food Safety to file an affidavit, explaining reasons for “disobedience” of order on February 13 last.
In order to further clarify previous direction, the court directed that only five samples of milk/milk products marketed by M/S Khyber Agro Milk Farms, one from each of the districts within its area of operation, shall be lifted on rotational basis in a week and got analysed by food analyst and an accredited laboratory outside the state.
“(For example) if one sample in the first week is taken from each of the districts A, B, C, D and E, in the following week five samples shall be taken from each of the districts i-e F, G, H. I and J. Same pattern shall be followed in respect of M/S Avon Agro Industries Private Limited and M/S Kanwal Agro Food industries and other companies i-e Snow Cap, Amul Surya, Haleeb, Zum Zum etc engaged in distribution, marketing of milk and milk products.”
The Commissioner Food Safety, bench said, shall issue instructions as regard pattern to be followed by Food Safety Officers.
The direction, however, is not to be interpreted as one directing respondents to restrict sampling only to aforesaid companies. “They shall continue to lift samples from other food items for analysis.”
The court modified its direction on February 13 last to the extent it requires forwarding one part of the sample to Referral laboratory.
“The respondent instead shall, while forwarding one part of sample to Food Analyst within State, forward another part of the sample to a Laboratory notified by Food Safety Authority in terms of Section 43, Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006, outside the Sate.”
The food business operators/dealer, court said, shall therefore, continue to have right to get one of the parts of the sample analysed by accredited laboratory.
“In case of variance, (they can) even approach Referral Laboratory for analysis of other part of sample and have final word from Referral Laboratory.”
The court also directed government initiate process to fill up various posts provided under the Food Safety Act, and file status report regarding state of selection process.
“Respondents shall submit analysis reports of samples lifted from food items marketed by M/S Khyber Agro Milk Farms, M/S Avon Agro Industries Private Limited and M/S Kanwal Agro Food Industries, in compliance of order dated February 13,” the court said and posted the case for further consideration on April 28.