The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) relaxed an important standard used to judge the purity of milk in February, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Requesting anonymity, a PFA official said that lactometer reading (LR) standard had been lowered from 28 to 22. “Since the relaxation of the rule, no major adulterated milk consignment has been detected by the PFA,” he said.
During 2014, the PFA teams had found 1,814 consignments of milk adulterated. “Around 64,427 litres of sub-standard milk was destroyed. The suppliers had mixed water, urea, formalin, detergents and starch in the milk,” he said.
The government established PFA under Punjab Food Authority Act 2011 in 2012 with the mission statement of working on scientific principles and international best practices to secure food safety and quality.
The official said that the PFA had initially set milk quality standards at: fat 5 per cent, solid non-fats 9.5 percent and a lactometer reading of 28 per cent.
“Usually, when a milk truck or shop is checked, the lactometer reading is taken on the spot. The fat and solids not-fat content are checked in a laboratory,” he said.
“On October 25, 2014, the Punjab Milk Suppliers’ and Sellers’ Association had organised a protest rally in the city to protest against the PFA. They had demanded relaxation of the standards. They had insisted that mixing of water in milk should not be regarded adulteration,” he said.
“In February, PFA Director General Dr Nasir Mehmood changed the LR milk purity standard,” the official said.
Requesting anonymity, a food safety officer said that they had been informed of the change. “Under the new standard, more than 90 per cent of the milk being supplied to the city has become fit. Action is now only taken against milk with urea, formalin, detergents and starch,” he said.
Around four to five million litres of milk is supplied daily by suppliers from the adjoining districts to the city, he said.
When contacted, Punjab Milk Suppliers’ and Sellers’ Association president Chaudhry Jamshed refused to comment on the lowering of the standards.
Fareeha Anwer, a PFA spokesperson, said that the standard had been lowered from 28 to 24 due to “environmental changes”. “The LR test is still being conducted on the spot. There has been no other change in checking milk quality, except for the water quantity test,” Anwer said.
When contacted, Director General Nasir Mehmood refused to comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2015.