New Delhi: An overwhelming quantity of milk being supplied in the market, both in pouches and in open cans in retail, does not conform to the quality standards under the Food Safety and Standards Act, the central government`s food regulatory authority has told the Supreme Court.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), in an affidavit filed last week, told the apex court of the 1,791 samples it collected from both urban and rural areas in states across the country, as many as 1,226 samples or 68.4 percent were found to be non-conforming to its standards.
In an alarming admission, the affidavit also said: "The study also indicated traces of detergent in some cases."
"Milk with detergent is unsafe for consumption," the FSSAI said.
Counsel Anurag Tomar, who appeared for the Swami Achyutanand Tirth who had filed the public interest litigation, said that though the FSSAI says that some samples had traces of detergent, a survey report said that in 103 samples, the presence of detergent was as high as 8.4 percent.
The FSSAI acknowledged that water was the most common adulterant.
"Addition of water not only reduces the nutritional value of the milk but if contaminated water is used, it may also pose health risk to the consumers," the authority told the court.
The sample report said that in cases where powered milk was being used for reconstituting the milk, the same was not being disclosed.
The samples collected by the Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and the Guwahati regional offices of the FSSAI, were tested at five government laboratories across the country.
The affidavit, filed by FSSAI`s assistant director Kamal Kumar, said that only 31.5 percent (565) samples collected from across the country in 2011 conformed with the statutory standards set under the 2006 act.
Compared to urban areas, the quality of milk available in rural areas was much better as the incidence of non-conforming samples collected in rural areas was 31 percent, or 381 of the samples. Of these 381 non-conforming samples, 16.7 percent or 64 were those sold in packaged form and 83.2 percent or 317 samples were those sold in retail.
In urban areas, 33.3 pecent of non-conforming samples were in packed form and the rest were through cans.
The worst scenario was in Uttar Pradesh where 88 percent of the samples collected were non-conforming.
"The deviation observed may be due to addition of water to milk," the affidavit said, adding that none of the samples failed due to neutralisers and acidity percentage.
Swami Achyutanand Tirth, who filed the PIL, is the head of Haridwar-based Bhuma Niketan Ashram in Uttarakhand. He contended that "apathy and inaction" of the government and the state governments in taking "effective and necessary" measures in curbing the sale of synthetic (chemically prepared) and adulterated milk was violative of fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.
The apex court May 9, 2012, issued notice to the central and Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Rajasthan governments on the PIL.