News on Adulterated Milk

Indian moms buy milk, juices without looking at labels
Monday, 27/10/2014

New survey reveals mothers check for taste before expiry dates and are unaware of real health risks of contamination.

Is that juice too sweet or not enough? That's a question Indian mothers may ask. But is it safe to drink? They wouldn't be sure, since few are poring over the labels.

The fact that moms are not reading the fine print is just one of the findings uncovered by Conversations with Mothers, a survey conducted by Research Pacific India for Tetra Pak to understand concerns and perceptions regarding food and beverages, specifically milk and fruit juices.

Over 845 mothers aged 25-40 across eight Indian cities were interviewed face-to-face across September to October, many of whom revealed inadequate knowledge about the safety and nutrition quotient of beverages they consumed.

While mothers said their top three concerns were freshness, purity (no adulteration) and naturalness, the survey reveals that they voted taste as the main driver for purchasing a beverage (65%). Freshness (64%) and health (59%) were close second and third, while only 32% said the expiry date was a priority .

When questioned about what they did to ensure the beverages they purchased posed minimal health risks, a majority said they only checked the expiry dates on the pack (68%). Just 9% inspected the pack to ensure it wasn't swollendirty. (Rotting drinks emit gas that fill the vacuum inside the pack and make it swell.) Though one in three mothers admitted to being unsure about the quality and safety of the beverages bought, only 38% read nutritional information or checked ingredients.

Dietician Dr Shweta Rastogi is of the opinion that most urban Indians don't pay much attention to food safety."Most people are price-driven or influenced by health claims of the product. I've heard both patients and laymen say they don't have the time or any interest in reading labels, they don't understand the terms, can't see the fine print and even doubt accuracy of information," says Rastogi, who consults with SNDT University and Guru Nanak hospital in Mumbai.

The mothers surveyed were also not aware of the health risks posed by unhygienic, spoilt, contaminated or adulterated drink items, citing food poisoning, vomiting, diarrhoea and fever as the only common fallouts. Less than 20% mothers in the higher income segment mentioned serious illnesses like jaundice, cholera or typhoid.

All the mothers interviewed boiled their milk for 4 to 6 minutes, mostly to kill germs. Even those using Ultra Heat Treated or UHT milk, which is sold in Tetra Pak packs, did the same (UHT is a treatment to kill germs).None of these mothers were aware that UHT milk does not need to be boiled. They also didn't know that boiling milk reduces its nutrition level (only 15% were aware)."Boiling milk reduces microbiological contamination but also lowers its vitamins B1, B12, calcium and phosphorus levels," Rastogi explains.

Comparatively, their knowledge of risks and benefits associated with fruit juices is up to date, with 55% choosing packaged juice over loose because although the latter is more nutritious, it is less hygienic than the former.

While packaged beverages score on purity of product, Rastogi pointed out that expense may be a factor for some consumers. The multiple layer packaging may prevent adulteration of the product, but also makes it costlier. (A litre of Mother Dairy full-cream packet milk costs Rs 44; UHT toned milk sold in a Tetra Pak is Rs 65.)


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