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White Poison: Synthetic Milk

FAHEEM FAYAZ

Our minds are preoccupied these days by the phobia of getting infected with the coronavirus . But while we are trying to safeguard ourselves, some people are busy satisfying their greed at the cost of people’s health by adulterating food items with toxic substances.
Milk is considered as a wholesome diet. It contains a wide array of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy fats, and antioxidants. Milk is a rich source of quality proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids, which help in reducing age-related muscle damage. Milk is also beneficial for bone growth and also reduces chances of osteoporosis and bone fractures. We can call it a complete drink in the sense that it is full of health benefits.
India is the world’s top milk producer with an annual production of about 186 million tonnes (FAO, 2018). It also has the world’s largest number of consumers of milk. In order to meet this demand, people have resorted to means like adulteration. Adulterants like soap, acid, starch, table sugar and chemicals like formalin are being added to the milk which are having hazardous effect on our health. Nowadays, toned milk is being consumed too, which is processed by treating natural milk with skimmed milk and water. This process decreases the fat content of the natural milk. This much adulteration is acceptable to some extent but nowadays milk factories for personal benefits have flooded the markets with more harmful synthetic milk.
Drinking such milk is nothing more than having a cup of chemicals capable of killing you instead of benefiting you. Synthetic milk with entirely different composition has high degree of adulteration. Generally, synthetic milk is a mixture of water, pulverised detergent or soap, sodium hydroxide, vegetable oil, salt, and urea. The simplicity and rapidity with which milk can be adulterated always tempts the unscrupulous milk vendors to indulge in fraudulent practices. This ever-rising greed has given way to the development of a new type of adulterated milk known as synthetic milk.

Composition of Synthetic Milk
i) Water is a medium component used in the preparation of synthetic milk. All other components are mixed in water to get equivalent consistency and appearance like natural milk.
ii) Cane sugar is added in synthetic milk to adjust the sweetness of milk and it is also added to mask the sour taste developed due to the acidity in stored milk.
iii) Starch is added in synthetic as well as natural milk to adjust and or to increase the consistency and viscosity.
iv) Urea is a source of nitrogen, thus it is generally added in synthetic milk to increase its nitrogen content and hence the level of the protein in milk.
v) Glucose is also added in synthetic milk to increase sweetness.
vi) Neutralisers are added in synthetic milk to mask acidity. Milk turns acidic when it is stored for a prolonged time.
vii) Detergents are added to make the milk frothy like natural milk.

Effect of Synthetic Milk Components on Human Health
i) Water is the cheap and chief adulterant used in milk. It not only decreases the density of milk but also dilutes the desirable nutritional value of all the natural milk nutrients. If the milk used in the adulteration is contaminated, it will lead to harmful diseases like cholera, typhoid, polio, meningitis, and hepatitis A and E.
ii) Cane sugar imparts sweetness to synthetic milk. As such, cane sugar does not have any ill effect on human health but poor quality of sugar in synthetic or adulterated milk can cause decreased wholesomeness of milk.
iii) Urea is commonly added to increase the milk solid fat content or its total nitrogen content. Although urea is naturally found in milk and contributes to the non-protein nitrogen normally found in milk, when urea is added in milk with low fat, the milk may become poisonous due to the presence of excess urea.

How to Differentiate Between Synthetic Milk and Natural Milk
There are many parameters to check whether the milk is natural or synthetic but they have been broadly classified into two groups: physical properties and chemical tests.

1. Physical properties:
Natural milk has no distinct odour but synthetic milk when freshly prepared has a soapy smell which disappears on overnight storage at 4 degree Centigrade.
Synthetic milk has a bitter taste because of the chemicals present.
Synthetic milk turns soapy when rubbed while as there is no soapiness associated with natural milk.
Synthetic milk turns yellow on boiling.

2. Chemical tests:
Fat test: Both natural as well as synthetic milk have equal content of fat.
pH: Synthetic milk is basic in nature with pH near 10 while as natural milk is slightly acidic in nature with pH 6-6.5.
Urea test: Synthetic milk gives intense yellow colour while natural milk gives faint yellow colour.
So, next time while buying milk from the market, you ought to be cautious about what you are buying with your hard-earned money. We should be aware whether the food we eat is good for us if it is poisoning us slowly.The FDO department needs to take some special measures to curb this dangerous practice and consumers need to be more aware of such practices. “Jaago grahak jaago” slogan needs to be implemented on ground. When consumer is aware of such adulterations, such incidents will be reduced.