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Adulteration of Milk and Milk Products: Legal Measures and Their Enforcement


Milk is a perishable food that is dynamically balanced. It is one of the few foods that is enjoyed in its natural state all throughout the world. It contains nutrients that are necessary for the human body's normal growth and upkeep. It is defined as the clean, entire, fresh lacteal secretion obtained by milking one or more healthy milch animals, excluding that collected within (15) days before or (5) days after calving, or such other interval as may be required to provide milk that is nearly colostrum-free and contains the minimum prescribed percentage of solid not fat and milk fat. It is composed of 87 percent water, 3.3 percent protein, 3.9 percent lipids, 5% lactose, and 0.7 percent ash, and provides body-building protein, health-promoting vitamins, bone-forming minerals, and energy-giving lactose and milk fat. It also contains all required amino acids and certain necessary fatty acids.

Because of the widespread consumption of milk and dairy products, these items are more likely to be tampered with, resulting in financial advantage for unscrupulous producers. Adulteration of milk and milk products during production and processing can be purposeful or unintentional. The addition of varying volumes of water to increase the volume of milk for more profit is one of the oldest and simplest forms of milk adulteration. This can significantly reduce the nutritional content of milk, and if the water added is polluted, there is a considerable danger to human health due to potential waterborne infections. The addition of starch, rice flour skim milk powder, reconstituted milk, urea, melamine, salt, glucose, vegetable oil, animal fat, and whey powder is another type of milk adulteration. The purpose of these additives is to thicken and viscosify the milk while maintaining the fat, carbohydrate, and protein composition.

This article examines the threat of adulteration in milk and its by-products in India, as well as the measures taken to combat it. A quick statement of the state of milk adulteration in India has been given after examining the efficiency of the restrictions put in place by the government in this regard. After that, there is a conclusion with some recommendations.

Importance of Milk as a Staple Food in India

In India and elsewhere, milk and milk products are widely consumed. They have long been one of the most important components of India's food basket, with their share of monthly per capita food spending rising from 11.5 percent to 14.9 percent in rural regions and from 15.7 percent to 18.4 percent in urban areas between 1983 and 2009–10.

According to statistics, India consumed the most cow milk in the world in 2019, consuming more than 77.7 million metric tons. Over the last decade, India's milk production has surged, reaching over 175 million metric tons in 2018 and 187 million metric tons in 2019, with the majority of it produced in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

In terms of supply, India is first in the world for milk production, accounting for roughly 18 percent of global total milk production and 146 million tons of milk produced in the country. India has a daily milk supply of over 300 grams per person. The annual growth rate of milk production was 6.28 percent in 2015-16, resulting in total output of 156 million tons. It's worth mentioning that buffaloes, not cows, provide the majority of Indian milk (the US is still the number one cow-milk-producing country in the world). The majority of India's milk is drunk fresh, according to the OECD-UN FAO Agricultural Outlook for 2014. (as opposed to powdered or canned). On a country-by-country basis, the United States produces the most milk, followed by India and China.

Menace of Adulteration in Milk and its By-Products

Milk in India was contaminated with diluted water, detergent, fat, and even urea, according to a 2012 investigation undertaken by the FSSAI across 33 states. Water, chalk, urea, caustic soda, and skimmed milk are some of the adulterants used in milk, whereas refined oil and skimmed milk powder are used in Khoya. Concerns have been voiced about the use of oxytocin injections to induce cows to give more milk, and fast action has been demanded to address the problem. It's also tainted with synthetic chemicals and detergent powder, posing a risk of irreversible damage. It's yet another thriving enterprise. It's referred to as "synthetic milk" in the industry.

The specific gravity of milk varies when water is added, which can be observed with a lactometer. As a result, numerous forms of adulterants such as salt, chemical compounds, and sugars are added to adjust for specific gravity. Economic adulteration occurs when natural milk is tainted with low-value elements such as water, whey, and other additives. Starch, chlorine, hydrated lime, sodium carbonate, formalin, and ammonium sulphate are all common adulterants discovered in milk. Synthetic milk is made by combining urea, caustic soda, refined oil, and ordinary detergents to make up for the lack of milk. Aside from ethical and financial concerns, detecting milk adulteration is critical for avoiding health risks such as gastrointestinal diseases, renal and skin illness, eye and heart problems, and cancer.

Despite the regulators' recent recommendation of a penalty of nearly US$14,000 (INR1 M) or a maximum of lifetime imprisonment for willfully introducing adulterants to food items, over 68 percent of all milk and milk products in India have been found to be in breach of the Food Safety and Guidelines Authority of India's (FSSAI) standards.

Only Goa and Puducherry were found to have milk samples that met the acceptable requirements among the states evaluated. West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, and Mizoram, on the other hand, were the worst, with 100% of randomly obtained milk samples being contaminated.

Legal Enforcements to Curb the Menace and Related Judicial Decisions

The Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006, which repealed many Acts and Orders, notably the Milk and Milk Products Order of 1992, was created to combat the threat of adulteration in milk and other food products. By transitioning from multi-level, multi-departmental control to a single line of command, the Act also attempts to create a single point of reference for all matters connected to food safety and standards. The Act creates an independent statutory authority, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, with its headquarters in Delhi. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the State Food Safety Authorities are responsible for enforcing the Act's numerous requirements. Among the provisions aimed at preventing milk adulteration are:

  • Section 3 (a) defines “Adulterant” as any material which is or could be employed for making the food unsafe or substandard or misbranded or containing extraneous matter and Section 3 (zf) defines misbranded food.

  • Section 65 mandates to pay compensation in case of injury or death of consumer. Section 66 is related to the liability of the Companies in the event of any offence of adulteration or misbranding.

  • Article 49. General provisions relating to penalty. The Adjudicating Officer or the Tribunal, as the case may be, must consider the following factors when determining the amount of the penalty under this Chapter: - (a) The amount of profit or unfair advantage gained as a consequence of the contravention, wherever quantifiable; (b) The amount of loss caused or likely to be caused to any person as a result of the contravention; (c) The repetitive character of the contravention; (d) Whether the contravention is committed without his knowledge; and (e) Any other relevant consideration.

  • Article 50. Penalty for selling food not of the nature or substance or quality demanded. Any person who sells food to the customer's detriment that is not in line with the terms of this Act or its rules, or of the nature, substance, or quality expected by the customer, faces a penalty of up to five lakh rupees. The persons covered under paragraph (2) of section 31 shall be subject to a penalty of not more than twenty-five thousand rupees for such non-compliance.

  • Article 51. Penalty for sub-standard food. Any person who manufactures for sale, stores, sells, distributes, or imports any substandard product of food for human consumption, whether by himself or by another person on his behalf, will be subject to a penalty of up to five lakh rupees.

  • Article 52. Penalty for misbranded food. (1) Any person who makes for sale, stores, sells, distributes, or imports any misbranded product of food for human consumption, whether on his own or on behalf of another person, is subject to a penalty of up to three lakh rupees. (2) The Adjudicating Officer may give a direction to a person found guilty of an offence under this section to take corrective action to rectify the mistake or to destroy the article of food.

  • Article 54. Penalty for food containing extraneous matter Any person who manufactures for sale, stores, sells, distributes, or imports any article of food for human consumption containing extraneous matter, whether by himself or on his behalf, shall be liable to a penalty of up to one lakh rupees.

  • Article 57. Penalty for possessing adulterant (1) Any person who, whether by himself or on his behalf, imports or manufactures for sale, or stores, sells, or distributes any adulterant shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding two lakh rupees in the case where the adulterant is not injurious to health; in the case where the adulterant is injurious to health, to a penalty not exceeding two lakh rupees in the case where the adulterant is injurious to health, to a penalty not exceeding two (2) In a proceeding under subsection (1), the fact that the accused was holding the adulterant on behalf of another person is not a defense.

Apart from government initiatives in the fight against milk adulteration, the judiciary has also handed down numerous rulings to milk adulterators. The following are some of the most noteworthy cases in this regard:

  • Swami Achyutanand Tirth & Ors vs Union Of India & Ors

(WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 159 OF 2012 decided by Supreme Court on 5 August, 2016)

The petitioners claimed that the respondents' inaction and apathy in failing to take adequate measures to prohibit the sale and circulation of synthetic milk and milk products across the country has resulted in a breach of the petitioners' and the general public's fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. A writ of mandamus was sought, instructing the Union of India and the various state governments to take immediate, effective, and serious action to prohibit the sale and distribution of synthetic/adulterated milk and milk products such as ghee, mawa, cheese, and other dairy products. The Supreme Court ruled that the Union of India should take the matter seriously and make all necessary changes to the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006. It goes without saying that, in addition to making appropriate revisions to the Act, the Union of India must also enact punitive measures that are consistent with the provisions of the IPC and the States Amendments thereto. The States shall take reasonable steps to notify dairy owners, dairy operators, and retailers working in the State that if chemical adulterants such as pesticides, caustic soda, or other chemicals are found in the milk, the State dairy operators or retailers, or all persons involved in the same, will face severe consequences.

  • A.P. Suryaprakasam vs The Government Of Tamil Nadu

(W.P.No.13717 of 2017 decided by Madras High Court on 1st March, 2019)

Petition filed under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution seeking a Writ of Mandamus directing the 1st respondent, the Government of Tamil Nadu, to take immediate steps to amend Section 272 of the Indian Penal Code to increase the penalty for adulterators of milk and milk products to life imprisonment, as directed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the Swami Achyutanand Tirth case a year ago. After inspecting packaged milk from private companies for more than five months, the respondents seem to have discovered that milk adulterators use hydrogen peroxide and chlorine to keep milk from spoiling. The following order was issued by the court:

  1. All District Collectors should send a periodic report to the Commissioner of Food Safety, Chennai, who would compile the report and submit it to the Secretary to the Government, Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development Department, for assessment and suitable instructions.

  2. In the instance of criminal action or court matters, District Superintendents of Police are required to send monthly reports to the Director General of Police, Chennai / second respondent herein, for necessary action.

  3. The Director of School Education, Chennai, will continue to train Nodal teachers and pupils, as well as raise awareness about the Detect Adulteration with Rapid Test (DART), and submit a report to the Secretary to the Government, School Education Department, Tamil Nadu.

Conclusion and Suggestions

From what has been stated in the foregoing, it is quite clear that adulteration of milk is a major and persisting problem. Its seriousness cannot be undermined because of the life sustaining nature of this commodity. Keeping in view the importance and high demand of milk, unscrupulous and greedy people have not only made it a medium of minting money, but have also given this practice the shape of an organized crime. The government has put in place different legal measures to keep a check on these activities like the FSSAI under the FSSA, 2006 which carries out tests from time to time in order to assess the situation and spread awareness regarding the levels of adulteration. Judiciary has also issued various orders to curb the menace. The administrative authorities conduct raids in an endeavour to see that adulterated milk and milk products do not reach the consumers. However, the situation is still not under control as cases keep coming up, especially during the festive seasons. In view of this, it is opined that:

  1. Steps must be taken by government and non-government bodies to about the presence and ill-effects of adulterated milk and milk products. The print and visual media should also be made use of for the purpose.

  2. Such awareness should also be created in educational institutions.

  3. There should be a network of testing labs to enable general public to get the sample tested of the milk they consume.

  4. In addition, mobile laboratories should also be there to carry out checks at random.

  5. The laboratories need to be provided with latest equipment, particularly to ensure that the tests are carried out fast, possibly on the spot

  6. More manpower needs to be deployed for testing as well as carrying out raids during the festive seasons.

  7. It also needs to be ensured that the testing and raiding teams carry out their duties scrupulously and do not indulge in corruption.

Submitted By: Twinkle Rathi

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