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All about Milk Adulteration: How to Check Adulteration in Milk

Team AckoJan 18, 2024

As milk is an inseparable part of people’s food regime, due care must be taken to ensure that it is safe for consumption. In India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is the authorized government body related to food and safety regulations. It keeps milk adulteration and contamination in check; however, citizens must also educate themselves regarding milk tampering as it is directly related to one’s health. Read ahead to know more about milk adulteration and regulation in India. Milk is an integral part of most Indian households. Irrespective of one’s age, milk, and milk products are included in the daily diet in some form or the other. Children drink milk-based health drinks while adults are either hooked on to tea or coffee. It does not just help you kickstart your day but milk-based items like dahi or chaas are meal-essentials. And then there are various sweet dishes made from milk throughout the country as well.




Difference Between Milk Contamination and Adulteration

Milk contamination and milk adulteration negatively affect the quality of milk. However, one needs to understand the difference in order to comprehend news reports. Usually, people panic on reading headlines about the low quality of milk. Such panic can lead to rumours, which in turn can harm the society at large. Of course, both contamination and adulteration should not be tolerated but one shouldn’t misinterpret the news as well. Therefore, here’s a basic explanation of these terms to help you put things in perspective.

Milk Contamination:

Substances get added to the milk unintentionally resulting in its low quality. This mostly occurs due to environmental contamination and bad handling practices. It can happen if the milk is not stored properly or there are quality issues related to its Supply-chain Management.

Milk Adulteration:

Unlike contamination, this is deliberate. Often performed to intentionally degrade the quality (and increase the quantity) of milk to make profit illegally. Milk adulteration poses serious health hazards. Common milk adulteration techniques include adding water, detergent, etc. to the milk.

Harmful Effects of Milk Contamination and Adulteration:

The demand for milk is always high due to its daily consumption. And it shoots up during festivals. Therefore, managing the supply side of it is a challenge. Adulteration usually happens when suppliers want to meet this demand-supply gap and make undue profits.

Milk’s perishable nature, non-perfection in quality checks, and the price of the finished product are also contributing factors that create scope for unethical people to exploit the masses. Such exploitation can result in major health issues. In general, the harmful effects of consuming contaminated or adulterated milk on a regular basis can lead to:

  • Malfunctioning of organs

  • Issues related to the heart

  • Cancer

  • Poor eyesight

  • Kidney issues

  • Death

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned India that if milk adulteration is not halted, a major portion of the population might face life-threatening diseases by the year 2025.

The severity of milk contamination and adulteration will depend upon how it got ontaminated and the kind of adulteration products used. Here’s a list of adulterants used in milk and their harmful effects.

AdulterantHarmful effects
MelamineKidney-related problems
StarchIt can cause diarrhoea. Too much accumulation can be problematic for diabetics
UreaCan take a toll on a person’s kidneys
Oxytocin injectionOxytocin is a hormone, and injections laced with it are given to cows and buffaloes so that they can produce more milk. The major health scare associated with this is that some quantity of the hormone injected in cattle is also transmitted to the person drinking the cattle’s milk, which can cause problems related to eyes, kidney, heart, etc.
FormalinThis is a disinfectant used to preserve biological samples. However, it has been noted that it is used to increase milk’s shelf-life. Consuming milk laced with formalin can cause skin problems and Cancer.
Hydrogen peroxideConcerns related to the digestive system
DetergentsIntestine and kidney issues

How to Check Milk Adulteration at Home?

If you are extremely concerned about how to check purity of milk being supplied in your locality and subsequently the milk consumed by you and your family, you can conduct some home-based milk adulteration tests/milk purity tests as a quality measure.

Here’s how to check milk purity at home

AdulterantHow to check milk purity at home
WaterWater is a common adulterant used to increase the quantity of milk. While that water might not directly affect your health, contaminated water will surely do so. A simple method to check whether milk is adulterated with water is to place a drop of milk on a slanting surface. If the milk flows freely it has high water content. Purer milk will flow slowly.
StarchAdding iodine to a sample of adulterated milk will make it bluish.
UreaAdd soybean powder to milk sample in a tube, shake it, and insert red litmus paper. If it turns blue, milk has urea.
DetergentTake 10ml of sample and mix it with 10ml of water. Shake the mixture. If the sample forms lather, then it has detergent.
Synthetic milkThis type of milk will leave a bitter taste in your mouth after drinking.

If the issue is not about detecting whether the milk is contaminated and adulterated, and you just want to know if the milk has gone bad, simply taking a sniff or tasting it should give you a clue.

Lab Testing of Milk for Contamination and Adulteration:

The laboratory method for checking adulteration in milk is a detailed form of checking adulteration in milk and milk products. It is much more intricate than home-based methods. The tests are performed in a controlled environment with all the necessary apparatus and safety measures in place.

Not all adulterants can be checked at home. For that, one has to rely on lab-based methods. Here’s a list of adulterants that need to be checked in a lab: Vanaspati, Formalin, Ammonium Sulphate, Salt, Hydrogen Peroxide, Sugar, and Boric Acid.

In the News:

There was a perception among the masses that milk consumed by Indians is highly contaminated or adulterated. Therefore, the FSSAI conducted a nationwide survey from the month of May 2018 till October 2018. They created a report, which passed through stakeholder meetings, and issued a press release in October 2019 stating ‘Your milk is largely safe’.

The National Milk Safety and Quality Survey 2018 included analysing 6432 milk samples collected from more than 1000 towns and cities (with a population exceeding 50000). The samples included raw milk as well as processed milk and were collected from organized and unorganized sector.

Out of the 6432 milk samples, FSSAI found 12 to be unsafe for human consumption. They admitted that this was a concern, however, their report does not consider the popular perception of massive milk adulteration to be true. The analysis has highlighted that the level of contamination and adulteration in the failed samples is not too high with regards to human health.

Two major concerns come to light regarding the survey. One is the presence of aflatoxin M1 residues, which was more than the permitted limit. And the second being 41% samples scoring low on the quality scale, which might be safe but not ideal. FSSAI has come up with Scheme of Testing and Inspection to ensure quality control.

Health Insurance:

From the information mentioned in the above paragraphs, it is clear that something as basic as milk has the potential to disrupt your health. Certain things are beyond your control and you cannot be on the watch 24×7 for things such as milk. Therefore, it is suggested to insure oneself with health insurance to ensure financial safety in case you need to be hospitalized for trivial matters or serious injuries.

There are different types of health insurance plans that you can choose from. They range from covering hospitalisation expenses arising from milk contamination and adulteration to money spent on fighting deadly diseases such as cancer. However, you must go through the policy wordings of your preferred health insurance policy before purchasing it. Policy wordings lay out a detailed explanation of your health cover including terms and conditions.

Here’s a list of popular health insurance options that can be purchased via certified insurance websites.

Usually, it is suggested to pick a combination of the above-mentioned policies to have a strong health insurance portfolio. It also helps in saving tax as per section 80D of the Income Tax Act.

Wrapping up!

Milk or other food products could contain harmful contaminants that can cause major health concerns. Make sure that your health insurance can take care of medical expenses for you and your family, if the need arises. Choose a health insurance policy that provides adequate coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1) Is drinking contaminated or adulterated milk life-threatening?


Yes, it can be life-threatening depending upon the intensity of the contamination or adulteration.

2) How to ensure milk is not contaminated or adulterated?


There is no foolproof way of ensuring the milk you drink is pure as it is not practical to keep checking the milk quality at home on a daily basis. Purchasing branded milk is one way that can be helpful.

3) How to know more about the recent milk adulteration report and FSSAI?


You can visit their website for detailed information.

4) Should one stop drinking milk because of rumours related to milk contamination and adulteration during Indian festivals.


Drinking or not drinking milk is a matter of choice. One shouldn’t believe in rumours and make an informed choice by educating yourself about the issue.

5) Can a health insurance policy offer assistance in case my parents are hospitalized because of drinking contaminated or adulterated milk?


Health insurance policies usually cover expenses occurring pre, during, and post hospitalization. Please get in touch with your preferred health insurance provider via call or email to know more about their policy’s coverage.


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