Life-threatening toxin found in milk: Food safety survey

Aflatoxin M1 can be life threatening and can cause liver cancer, if taken in large doses. 41 per cent milk is of low quality

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Representative Image
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Amir Malik

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) found traces of Aflatoxin M1 in some of milk samples it tested, as per a FSSAI report released on October 18. As many as 368 out of 6,432 samples (5.7 per cent) contained Aflatoxin M1 (a cancer-causing toxin) residues beyond the permissible limit, the report said. The report added that about 41 per cent of the milk samples, though safe, fell short on one or another quality standard.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that safe wholesome and hygienic food will create ‘Swachh Bharat’, a campaign celebrated by the government with pomp and show. The presence of Aflatoxin M1 in milk gives a different picture though. “For the first time in India’s history, Aflatoxin M1 in milk has been assessed,” the report claimed.

The sample collected 2835 samples of raw milk and 2607 of processed milk. The toxin was found to be dominant in the latter than the former. Aflatoxin M1 can be life threatening and can cause liver cancer, if taken in large doses. FSSAI allows up to 0.5 µg/kg Aflatoxin M1 in milk. As many as 88 samples out of 551 in Tamil Nadu, 38 out of 262 in Delhi, 37 out of 187 in Kerala contained the toxin beyond permissible limits.

It also said that processed milk samples were found to have maltodextrin and sugar. These are not unsafe but are added to raise the level of fat and Sugar Not Fat (SNF) of milk. "This is not acceptable," read the report, quoting Pawan Aggarwal, the FSSAI CEO.

Both raw and processed milk samples have failed on account of low fat. "Such non-compliance in raw milk could be either be due to quality of feed and rearing practices or due to dilution of milk with water," the report read, adding that this non-compliance in standardised and processed milk is surprising.

"A total of 1024 raw milk samples were found with added water," the report read.

According to the 2011 Census report, per capita consumption of milk in India is 96 gram a day. On the Global Hunger Index (GHI) in 2000, India was ranked 83 out of 113 countries. Now, with 117 countries in the fray, the country has dropped to the 102th rank.

The report was released just two days after World Food Day, i.e. October 16.

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