MILK SCAM: KASHMIR OBSERVER CAMPAIGN JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2012
Kashmirs Poisonous White Revolution-JKs Food Safety Agencies See No Evil, Hear No Evil For Years
Politicians Trying To Stall Action
Higher-Ups Sleep On Field Reports
83% Milk Consumed In JK Contaminated
SRINAGAR: In a shocking revelation, the Food Safety Standards Authority of India has claimed that 83 per cent of milk produced and consumed in Jammu and Kashmir is contaminated with components like salt, detergents and several other harmful substances being found in it. The milk not only has weak nutritious value but has several other side effects for human health as well.
According to a study conducted by the FSSAI, experts fear the consumption of contaminated milk by the gullible people across the state could lead to gastroenteritis, food poisoning, endocrinology and several other chronic diseases. They said the onus for this lied on the government which had given a free hand to the companies for adulteration.
The study revealed that hazardous substances like detergent, starch, soda, glucose and other synthetic substances were being mixed with milk which becomes harmful for human consumption.
In its first-ever country-wide survey on milk adulteration conducted in 2011, the FSSAI found that of the total 1,791 samples tested throughout the country, including Jammu and Kashmir, at least over 68 per cent i.e. 1,226 samples were either diluted with water or mixed with harmful detergents.
The situation is worse in the states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Daman and Diu, Jharkhand, Orrisa, West Bengal and Mizoram where all the samples collected were found to be contaminated or not conforming to the prescribed standards.
For instance, in Manipur, 96 per cent samples did not conform up to standards, in Meghalaya it was 96 per cent, followed by Tripura with 92 per cent, Gujarat 89 per cent, Sikkim 89 per cent, Uttrakhand 88 per cent, Uttar Pradesh 88 per cent, Nagaland 86 per cent, Jammu and Kashmir 83 per cent and Punjab 81 per cent.
In Rajasthan, the FSSAI study revealed, the level of contamination was 76 per cent followed by Delhi 70 per cent, Haryana 70 per cent, Arunachal Pradesh 68 per cent, Maharashtra 65 per cent, Himachal 59 per cent and Chandigarh 48 per cent.
In urban India, nearly 70 per cent of samples were found to be contaminated, compared with 31 per cent of samples in rural areas. Only two states – Goa and Pondicherry – sold unadulterated milk, while all 250 samples from four eastern states were found to be contaminated with detergents.
The snap shot survey was conducted with a view to identifying the common adulterants in milk in rural and urban areas in different states besides finding out the non-conforming samples in loose and packed forms throughout the country.
Reagents like salt and glucose are added to alter the thickness and viscosity. Adding starch prevents curdling of milk. Salt and detergents are added to adjust the lactometer reading to add thickness to the milk.
The survey has proved how authorities concerned had failed to check this blatant violation of the standards for milk in various states which is otherwise meant for strengthening bones, cardiovascular improvements and oral health.
The survey said that addition of water reduced the nutritional value of the milk. The contaminated water and detergents pose health risk indicating lack of hygiene and sanitation in milk handling. Immediate effect of drinking milk adulterated with urea, caustic soda and formalin is gastroenteritis but the long-term effects are far more serious.
This is a crime; government should react on this issue immediately and take strict action against the companies indulging in adulteration. It is something which kills people slowly. The contaminated milk, which contains substances like detergents, caustic soda, and unsafe water give rise to incidence of various diseases in the valley. We have seen an increasing number of patients complain of food poisoning, gastric troubles and some other serious problems. It can even cause cancer, the director, SK Institute of Medical Sciences, and noted Gastroenterologist, Dr Showkat Ahmad Zargar, told Kashmir Observer.
People consuming adulterated food and contaminated milk develop some bizarre syndromes. When these substances go beyond concentration, people complain of disorders of gastrointestinal tract, including esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and biliary system. This is very harmful for pregnant women and can even affect the growth of the new born and children. It can give a new trend of diseases in our state, Dr Zargar added.
Talking to Kashmir Observer, heath officer, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Dr Rubeena, said they had been examining certain samples of milk in which they had even banned the sale of milk produced by certain companies.
During inspection and sampling, we found that some of the milk companies used caustic soda, unsafe water and synthetic substances, which can cause serious health problems, Dr Rubeena said.
Being a concerned health official dealing with all these things, I have given the report to the higher authorities and my role ended there. Now it is for the food commissioner and other authorities to take action against them, said the health officer, when asked why the SMC had not taken any action against the companies found marketing adulterated milk.
Daily Taaza milk supplied mostly to the army was banned recently. We moved very fast in the regard. Besides there are some unsafe and misbranded products as per the Act, they should get a clear cut ban, Dr Rubeena said.
She said the sale of adulterated milk would be completely eradicated only with a joint effort of common people and the authorities. We are introducing a new technology in the state shortly which will help the households to check the milk at their doorstep and also help the civic body to conduct more sampling in the market, Dr Rubeena said.
Even after NGOs and other organizations in various Indian states have started raising eyebrows on the concerned agencies, the state government here seems to be ignorant about the contaminated milk being marketed with impunity, which is taking a heavy toll on the entire society without any discrimination.
I dont know about any survey and adulteration in milk products, I am hearing it from you, Law and Parliamentary Affairs minister and senior National conference leader, Ali Muhammad Sagar, told Kashmir Observer.
Asked, what would be the immediate reaction from the government with regard to the companies involved in adulteration, Sagar said Please give me a day, I will enquire into it and come to you with full details.
Kashmirs Poisonous White Revolution
JKs Food Safety Agencies See No Evil, Hear No Evil For Years
SRINAGAR: Clueless that the constitutional morning cuppa in Kashmir is actually a delivery mechanism for disease, the states food safety agencies on Thursday switched into the Hum Dekhen Gey mode on reports of almost the entire milk supply in Jammu and Kashmir being contaminated.
While the deputy drug controller here has, according to his own admission to the Kashmir Observer today, been conducting sampling of dairy products from time to time but appears to have not even the faintest inkling of their safety and standards, the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has found that 83 per cent of the milk consumed in Jammu and Kashmir is laced with hazardous contaminants.
The (FSSAI) has found that virtually every cup of tea grown-ups here have been taking for years, and every ounce of milk infants have been brought up on, is actually a deadly cocktail of detergents, soda, (even caustic soda), starch, and other unspecified synthetic substances, but all that the Srinagar Municipal Corporation has been able to do is ban one dairy producer, and remain understandably silent on the nature of its violation of standards and norms.
No one bothers to explain why possible violations by others dairy companies, doorstep delivery boys, neighbourhood gojris have been ruled out. The FSSAI findings, actually an indictment of the states food and drug safety agencies, have been confirmed in their deadly impact by no less an authority than the director of the SKIMS, Dr. Shaukat Ahmad Zargar, a gastroenterologist of international repute, and many of his colleagues, who have long been assailed by heavy incidence of serious health disorders traceable also to serious food contamination.
While the Drug Control Authority, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, and even the most powerful of ministers, have done a virtual-double take on the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) report, people in the dairy business point fingers, and trade associations demand action, both washing hands off an issue amounting to the slow poisoning of the valley.
It has taken an all-India survey to confirm what every housewife in Kashmir has always feared, but the state governments food safety institutions appear to have been the classic hear no evil, see no evil lumps of lard capable only of knee-jerk reactions even on massive sale of sub-standard and spurious pharmaceuticals.
Food Adulteration: Higher-Ups Sleep On Field Reports
SRINAGAR: After the shocking revelations by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India that 83 per cent of milk produced and consumed in Jammu and Kashmir was contaminated with components like salt, detergents, caustic soda and several other harmful substances, the Drugs and Food Control Organization, Kashmir, Friday asserted 30 per cent of food items in the Valley were highly adulterated, while Kashmir alone consumed 75 per cent of contaminated milk.
Kashmir consumes 30 per cent of adulterated food items – spices, biscuit, edible oil, salt, and many other eatables, which is shocking. Besides, the Valley people alone consume 75 per cent contaminated milk being produced by local companies, public analyst/ designated officer, Drugs and Food Control Organization, Hamidullah Dar, alleged while talking to Kashmir Observer.
He said the food safety officers had been working in different districts and sub districts to check the menace of contamination and they had been collecting samples of milk from time to time, for which they had already sent reports to higher authorities to take action against the companies involved in adulteration.
We collected samples from every corner of the valley and during their testing we found that out of eight samples, six were adulterated with starch, detergent and some synthetic substances, Dar said, adding In many other food and edible items, our experts found that turmeric and chili powder, sounp, sweets, ghee, pickles, oils, salt had been adulterated with toxic colors, starch with other harmful substances.
He said his team had done the sampling and prepared the report before FSSI. Asked why he did not take action against the companies involved in contamination, Dar said, As a concerned officer, my job is to frame the report and highlight the areas and companies involved in contamination and my work remains restricted to laboratory only, rest is the job of higher authorities.
Reliable sources in the Drugs & Food Control Organization said contaminated products were a source of income for various law enforcement officials and other unscrupulous elements.
Contamination is possible only when concerned administration officials adopt a non-serious approach towards the companies involved in the crime. Although lower rung officials do their job like sampling, testing and reporting their findings to the food commissioner and other authorities who, on their part more often than not prefer to look the other way. The chief minister should order appropriate action in the matter, said a well placed official, wishing anonymity.
Refuting claims of the commissioner, Food Safety, that food inspectors had been asked to collect samples, sources revealed their earlier reports had been ignored.
On August 5, 2011, we started sampling in different areas and all the food inspectors worked very hard, and then we found most of the products, milk as well as other eatables contaminated. We sent the report to the commissioner sahib, what happened to that, please ask him, said the official.
Pertinently, Kashmir Valley alone produces 11.32 lakh tonnes of milk annually.
If Omar Abdullah is serious in improving the health sector, he should not let people die. He should immediately check the menace of adulteration to bring down the incidence of diseases. But, they are busy in their own world, said a senior citizen, Muhammad Abdullah of Budgam.
When contacted, Commissioner, Food Safety, Jammu and Kashmir, Satish Gupta, said he was looking into the report and would take action very soon. Then, he dropped the phone. When this reporter made attempts to ascertain his response to reports of drug inspectors about contamination of milk and other edible items already lying with him, the commissioner finally answered the call for a few seconds and said. Right now there is no light here, we will talk tomorrow about this.
Meanwhile, the director, Animal Husbandry, Kashmir, Dr Farooq Ahmad Kaloo, said, I think majority of our milk producers in the state dont even know about the harmful chemicals added to milk elsewhere in the country. Our milk producers, I mean the dairy farmers, are innocent. Their intelligence and knowledge is limited to water and water chestnut flour adulteration whereas outside they use urea, soaps, vegetable fat and even formalin. But this too has to be stopped immediately, he said.
Whatever milk we import, I do not hold a brief for that. My unit is not allowed to test the tankers of milk coming daily to Kashmir, which is another issue, Dr Kaloo said.
Talking to Kashmir Observer, deputy commissioner, Srinagar, Baseer Ahmad Khan, said that they will soon take action against the companies involved in adulteration.
On the priority basis, I had ordered constitution of three committees comprising experts from Health and Drug departments, SMC and others to monitor the markets and check the level of adulteration. We will not spare anybody found guilty in adulterating food items or milk, he said, adding the officials had done video sampling of certain companies as well and once the report came these companies were going to have tough time.
Milk Scam: Politicians Trying To Stall Action
SRINAGAR: In a shocking revelation, the civic authorities here have accused politicians of attempting to prevent them from initiating punitive action against those allegedly found involved in adulteration of milk in the valley.
For taking bold steps at the administrative level, one will have to go through a virtual hell at the hands of unscrupulous elements who would not hesitate in pressurizing an upright official against taking any action under law, health officer of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Dr Rubeena, told Kashmir Observer.
Sources in the premier civic body in the states summer capital said the health officer was subjected to lot of harassment by certain politicians after she initiated legal action against a milk producer allegedly for violating food safety laws.
According to reports, the health officer, accompanied by a team of food safety officers and a police party from Pantha Chowk police station, had sealed the milk processing unit of M/S Daily Need Processing and Milk Products, at the Industrial Area, Khonmoh, on the city outskirts, engaged in selling pouched milk under the brand name of TAAZA Milk.
During routine inspection on December 8, some milk samples were taken from the plant in presence of the SMC health officer and after laboratory tests, it was found that the samples were contaminated.
The sample contained thick layers of fat with black particles visible to the naked eye, public analyst-cum-designated officer, Drugs and Food Control Organization, Hamidullah Dar, who had examined the sample, told Kashmir Observer, alleging the milk was misbranded and unsafe for human consumption.
He said the sample was found containing 4.5 per cent of fat in violation of the provision of Food Safety Act. The sample contains foreign fat, as the butyro-refractometer reading more than 44 at 40 degree Celsius. Besides the sample wasnt found labeled. So according to the provisions of FSSA rules 2011, as the date of package and batch is not given, you can take immediate action against the persons involved, said the public analyst.
I would appreciate the role of the civic authorities. In face of pressures, she managed to get the owner of TAAZA Milk Products prosecuted under the Food Safety Act, 2011, he said.
When contacted, the SMC health officer, Dr Rubeena, refused to disclose the name of the politician for obvious reasons, but alleged she had been subjected to mental torture for initiating legal action against the accused milk producer and getting the companys license, under the name of M/S Daily Need Processing and Milk Products, cancelled and its Jammu-based owner prosecuted. A senior Congress minister from Jammu also played a role in the matter, sources told Kashmir Observer.
Sources said it was due to the efforts of the public analyst and SMC health officer that the TAAZA Agro Farms, who supplied bulk of its production to the army here, was prosecuted allegedly for marketing highly contaminated milk in the valley.
A senior official in the SMC, wishing anonymity, said that the health officer was pressurized by the political circles over her bold step to close down the TAAZA milk plant here.
Talking to Kashmir Observer, Dr Rubeena said she would never succumb to the pressures from the political circles.
I got so many pressures. I was harassed in meetings and even threatened but I didnt budge in my resolve to discharge my duty in the larger interest of public health, she said.
For every honest administrator, I guess, these things come and they will come until they remain honest. I then took leave for a couple of days to relieve myself from the mental trauma I had gone through after I took the decision to close down the TAAZA plant, she said.
Sources in the Drugs and Food Control Organization, revealed that the political pressures were largely responsible for the food and milk adulteration having assumed the dimension of a menace.
Milk Scam: Govt Launches Probe, Promises Action
SRINAGAR: Even as the Jammu and Kashmir government has ordered investigation into the reports of contaminated milk being marketed across the state, particularly in the Kashmir valley, some of the major milk brands have allegedly been found guilty of adulteration and misbranding of the mass consumption commodity.
We have started investigations into the presence of adulterated milk in the valley and those involved in this nefarious and dangerous activity wont be spared. Reports have been called from the concerned officials in the city and in districts so that action is initiated against those involved in the crime, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution minister, Qamar Ali Akhoon, told Kashmir Observer.
We discussed the contamination reports threadbare at a meeting of divisional administration, where all the officials have been directed to immediately examine the samples and submit the report, he said, adding the divisional commissioner, who had already ordered a thorough probe into the matter, would take further steps as required under law.
This is a very serious issue. Let the report come, all these people involved in the heinous activity will be dealt with sternly, Akhoon, who had arrived in the valley today, said.
Meanwhile, official sources have confirmed the reports of contaminated milk being sold in various areas of the valley. According to official records, copy of which is lying with Kashmir Observer, public analyst-cum-designated officer of the Drug and Food Control Organization in Kashmir, had found six of the eight samples picked up for tests during a recent drive hugely adulterated.
Confirming the report, officials at the Drugs and Food Control Organization said that during the recent sampling, they had found certain milk brands allegedly contaminated while the valleys major brand, Khyber, was allegedly found misbranding its product, in violation of the Food Safety Act, 2011.
In the eight milk samples, we found six adulterated. While the valleys prominent brand, Khyber, was found violating the rules by selling the packets with no batch numbers and expiry date, which gives the vendors a free hand to sell even stale milk for a long time and we also couldnt ascertain which batch of production the product belongs, the public analyst, Hamidullah Dar, told Kashmir Observer.
We immediately labeled the batch of Khyber as misbranded and sent a report to the diary owners who have been informed by the concerned food inspectors as well, he said.
However, he said the toned milk of Khyber and Paras Milk was found to be conforming to the food safety norms.
Talking to Kashmir Observer, Khyber Agro Farms manager, Parvaiz Ahmad Bhat, said his company was never involved in adulteration of its products and procured the best quality of products which had been have been its USP since its launch.
We have never been involved in any adulteration of milk. During winter, we get milk from Samrala (Punjab) and, in summer, we procure all our milk from the valley. We have earned huge brand loyalty and that has been only possible because we deliver the best, he said.
Asked about alleged misbranding, Bhat said, Misbranding is no adulteration; yes, it is related to market norms. We intimate the authorities about the batch which is misbranded or without the dates, why didnt they stop us then. We havent got any notice from them and, yes, we know we could be fined for misbranding of products, Bhat said, adding, We test our milk in our laboratory as well as we produce 60,000 liters of milk every day for valley people.
Denying any involvement in adulteration, another milk producer, dared the authorities to check its products. First, all our milk comes from the valley itself. We procure milk from local areas and I personally monitor every segment of it, thats is the reason we have been able to provide full production to the valley people and the closure of Srinagar Jammu highway has not affected us anyway, owner of Zum Zum Milk Products, Shafaat Ahmad, told Kashmir Observer.
All these (official) agencies are welcome in our laboratory to test our products again and again. I take a couple of packets of Zum Zum milk every day for my family. Is it possible that I will feed my family with contaminated milk? For that matter, I will never tolerate that any other family here should get adulterated milk from us, said Ahmad, who also owns a dairy farm.
He said the government should ake stern action against those found indulging in the crime of adulteration.
The diary business in Kashmir has not been fully understood and even people who deal with it take it lightly. Those involved in adulteration should be punished, because they are committing a serious crime. They are the people who malign and defame our business. We may lose our customers by their act, Zum Zum owner said.
It may be recalled that in its first-ever country-wide survey on milk adulteration conducted in 2011, the Food Safety Standards Authority of India has found that of the total 1,791 samples tested throughout the country, including Jammu and Kashmir, 1,226 samples (over 68 per cent) were either diluted with water or mixed with harmful substances.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the level of contamination is 83 per cent.
According to the study, experts fear consumption of contaminated milk by gullible people could lead to gastroenteritis, food poisoning, endocrinology and several other chronic diseases. They said the onus for this lied on the government which had failed to take effective steps to curb the menace.
Reporter: Nazir Ganaie and team
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.