India to curb sale of adulterated milk

Expressing concern over the sale of adulterated milk in India, the Supreme Court yesterday said it is a serious issue and action needs to be taken by state governments to curb it.

"It is a very serious matter. Undoubtedly, it is happening all over the country. What action is being taken by the government?" a Bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose asked.

The Bench directed the governments of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi to file their response stating what action they are taking to put an end to the menace of milk adulteration, after the central government (centre) submitted that it is for the state governments to take action.

The court, which was hearing a PIL filed by a group of citizens, said it would later expand its ambit to include all states in the country on the issue.

Posting the matter for 31 July, the court made it clear that no further time will be given to the states to file their submissions.

The court also observed that the adulteration is because of gaps in demand and supply of milk.

The PIL has been filed by a group of citizens, led by Swami Achyutanand Tirth of Uttarakhand. The petition alleges that synthetic and adulterated milk and milk products are prepared using urea, detergent, refined oil, caustic soda and white paint, which, according to studies, are "very hazardous" to human life and can cause diseases like cancer.

The petition also seeks a check on the sale of synthetic and adulterated milk and various dairy products, and framing of a "comprehensive" policy on the production, supply and sale of healthy, hygienic and natural milk.

On October 21 last year, the centre had submitted before the apex court that over 68 per cent of milk in the country does not conform to the standards set by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). A survey conducted by FSSAI had found that over 68 per cent of the "non-conforming" milk was found in urban areas, 66 per cent of which was loose milk.

According to the FSSAI's 2011 survey, the most common way of adulteration was found to be the addition of water, and the main reason for deviation from the standards was addition of glucose and skimmed milk powder. It had also found that some samples contained detergent.

The centre's affidavit, issued in response to a notice by the apex court, had also stated that over 83 per cent of the non-conforming milk in rural areas was found to be loose milk.