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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

White poison: Why drinking milk could prove fatal for you

Consumption of adulterated milk can cause serious health issues like heart problem, cancer, and sometimes even death.

Updated: July 2, 2020 4:29:04 pm

Nutritionists say there are three white poisons – salt, refined sugar and maida. One wonders now if there is a fourth one on the horizon – milk. It is not the milk per say but what is added into it that is dangerous.

Adulteration or adding unwanted ingredients to food may be intentional or unintentional. The first is done deliberately to increase profits. Adulteration may also be incidental due to lack of knowledge and lack of hygiene. Adulteration is defined as “the process by which the quality or the nature of a given substance is reduced. Water is a common adulterant to milk, to increase volume and profits, but the problem is that the consumers immediately make out the presence of it.

The taste of the milk changes, it does not boil over while heating but keeps boiling inside the vessel, the tea is insipid, and formation of cream is reduced. To avoid getting caught, the adulterator adds certain substances to the ‘watered’ milk to improve its thickness, taste, density and viscosity. The common adulterants are formalin, urea, starch, neutralizers (NaHCO3 , Na2 CO3 , NaOH, Ca(OH)2 etc.), detergents, sodium chloride, skim milk powder, sucrose, glucose/dextrose, and hydrogen peroxide. Some of these are referred to solid-non-fats (SNF) and are used to cover the quantity of natural fats missing in the ‘watered’ milk. Let us look at the some common adulterants in milk.


– With inputs from Milk Adulteration in Hyderabad, India – A Comparative Study on the Levels of Different Adulterants Present in Milk Hemanth Singuluri and Sukumaran MK* Department of Biochemistry, Bhavan’s Vivekananda College, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. Ref – Singuluri and Sukumaran, J Chromatograph Separat Techniq 2014, 5:1 

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The extent of adulteration

In this Hyderabad Clinical Study it was found that milk adulteration is rampant. The study concludes that a large number of samples procured did not conform to the legal standards prescribed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). These results clearly suggest that most of the milk samples were adulterated.

The extent of adulteration varied significantly with least percentage for sucrose (22%) and highest for skim milk powder (80%). This means that most of the milk samples were prepared with added adulterants during their production and processing or added intentionally. In a country such as India where milk and milk products play an important role, this analysis should bring more awareness to the general public about the malpractices or negligence in milk production.

The National Survey on Milk Adulteration 2011 (see graph) was conducted to check adulterants in fresh milk in India. The study found that detergents that are deliberately added as well as from the transport containers not properly cleaned, find their way into the milk. The survey report notes that the consumption of milk with detergents is hazardous to health. About eight per cent samples were found to have detergents. Other contaminants like urea, starch, glucose and formalin, too, were found in the milk. FSSAI (Food Safety and Standard Authority of India) had tested a total of 1,791 samples throughout the country.

Milk adulteration | Create infographics


Just after the scare of instant noodle Food safety and drug administration (FSDA) in Agra has found presence of detergent in milk samples of a known milk brand. It has become vital to know what we drink in our milk that we consider a complete food, and give to our children in hope of keeping them healthy and growing.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, in one of its reports states, detergents (including caustic soda) cause food poisoning and gastro-intestinal complications. The other synthetic compounds impair the functioning of various organs of the body, cause heart problems, cancer, and sometimes death. The immediate effect of drinking adulterated milk containing urea, caustic soda and formalin is ‘gastroenteritis’, but the long term effects are known to be far more serious.


Milk adulteration is a very serious issue – where the entire new generation of India (children) is in danger to fall prey to it. The adulterants are toxic and can cause serious health issues. Taking a strong stand against milk adulteration, Supreme Court of India, in July this year, has urged that anyone found involved in the illicit activity should be dealt with a firm hand. As a countermeasure, the SC stated that milk adulteration should amount to life imprisonment and asked the government to take all possible measures to prevent it. The SC asked the states affected by this problem to make stronger laws capable of dealing with production and sale of milk that is harmful for human beings. The bench also slammed the current maximum punishment of six months by calling it grossly inadequate.


The question in mind arises that if the milk is so adultrated what about the milk products made out of such adulterated milk? They are even more dangerous.