PESHAWAR: Naeem Khan is busy in handling the customers at his milk shop in Peshawar’s famous Super Market. The cashier is sitting at the reception, receiving payments from them. The rate list of the milk was placed at the front wall of the shop.
“We open the shop right after Fajar Prayers,” says the black bearded Khan who was preparing curd for the customers. “Early to bed and early to rise is the key factor behind the success of this business (selling milk), otherwise one would lose it” There was a drum kept in the shop for using it as water container and that too was leaked. The drum was placed next to the freezer where it was used to keep the milk safer from dirt.
There are hundreds of such milk shops in the city where the milk is supplied from the dairy farms. These shops provide dairy products to the consumers on regular basis. However, the officials admit that some of the dairy farms are providing adulterated milk. Medical experts believe that such adulterated milk is hazardous to the health of the citizens including children and adults.
In March 2017, a petition was also filed in Peshawar High Court(PHC) pleading the court to direct the local administration to carry out necessary laboratory tests of milk before it reaches the retailer’s shop. The petitioner claimed, the milk is getting adulterated by injecting Oxytocin in the buffaloes to enhance the milk yield by 20 to 30%.
KP’s Live Stock Director Dr.Masoom Shah, who also heads the testing laboratory told Truth tracker/News lens Pakistan that earlier there was no proper lab for examination but since the establishment of this lab there is continuous monitoring, therefore, the graph of selling adulterated milk has been reduced in the region. While giving details of the adulterated milk, he said mostly chemicals are mixed while the suppliers remove fat from the milk. “We now ensure to have 4.5% fat in milk and those violating orders are being fined”. He further explained that concerned officials of the district administration have been trained to carry out the particular tests of the milk but it will take a long time to fully ensure the provision of healthy nutrition to the consumers.”Consumers can lodge complaint to the district administration about adulterated milk and we take strict action against those mixing chemicals in milk.”
The statistics of Livestock Department shows that there are over 400 registered milk shops while around 500 are unregistered in Peshawar. Shah explained that they were also working to registered all the shops in the city and ensure proper testing of the milk they are selling.
According to the details provided by district administration of Peshawar, the daily consumption of milk in the city is nearly 70,000 liters. The local production is around 15,000-20,000 liters while the rest of required demand is supplied from Punjab.”We [district administration] check the supplied milk from Punjab every morning before it gets marketed,” says Aslam Zaib, the Deputy Commissioner of Peshawar who looks after all those departments that were devolved into districts from province under the 18th Amendments. He explained that the City District administration has established a well-equipped testing laboratory under experts for checking the milk for any adulteration through scientific procedures. According to him, the laboratory while doing arrangements to provide safe and healthy milk to the consumers, is also assisting to reduce milk adulteration cases in the city. Food inspectors are working on permanent basis under district administration to ensure quality of foods in the market including milk. They frequently conduct raids on markets to collect milk samples and refer it for lab tests. The district administration claims that since 2017, some 300 people have been arrested in the city on the charges of adulteration and their shops have been sealed as well. The Spokesperson of Deputy Commissioner Sajid Ahmad conceded that district administration does not formerly compile such data. The record shows that more than 1000 samples have been examined by the lab so far and 300 samples were found contaminated. Those involved in the malpractice were awarded imprisonment and fined 10,000 to 50,000 rupees.
The milk is considered an essential part of our daily meals particularly for children. The dairy and livestock industry have a major share in the economy of the country. According to a research article published in Journal of Sarhad Agriculture, livestock is one of the largest sub sectors of agriculture in Pakistan. “Milk is the largest commodity from the livestock sector making 51% of the total sector with an estimated income of more than Rs. 390 billion”, journal stated. The article further reads, “Pakistan is the fifth largest producer of milk in the world with an annual production of 28 billion liters”. According to 2016-17 Economic Survey of Pakistan, the gross production of milk was 56 million tons.
Zaib told Truth tracker/News lens Pakistan that the district administration has setup a new mechanism for checking the quality of milk on regular basis by establishing fixed-testing units at various spots in the city. However, on the condition of anonymity, one of the milk suppliers to the city claimed that the supply from Punjab is free from adulteration, it only appears when the local dairy farm owners mix a chemical named Formalin in the milk which is generally used for preserving dead bodies.”The chemical is mixed with the milk to increase its life and to save it from spoiling,” the supplier revealed, who does not wish to be named owing to the fear of arrest.
The adulterated milk putting the health of the consumers at risk particularly the children. A research study conducted in 2017, was published in a US based Journal of Food and Science and it analyzed the milks’ impact on children health under five years. The findings suggested that the children who were examined had lower weight and poor nutritional rate as compare to those consuming milk without adulteration. The study further revealed that the chemicals including formaldehyde, boric acid, urea and hydrogen peroxide were found in total of 77 (38%) milk samples. Medical experts have the opinion that the chemicals including Oxytocin, Formalin, Urea detergents and Ammonium Sulphate have hazardous effects on the milk consumers.
Dr. Saud Malik, from the Medical Office at Peshawar’s Khyber Teaching Hospital told Truth track/News Lens Pakistan that generally milk is considered as a necessity for the human body and the consumers believe that it keeps them healthy. However, he also said when the milk is contaminated with chemicals it becomes unsafe for consumption. “Formalin and detergents caused liver and kidney problems due to its highly toxic characteristics” Dr. Saud said, adding, “sometime it causes kidney failures if someone regularly consumes adulterated milk”. Furthermore, he said adulterated milk triggers early breast development in girls which can sometime become cancerous. “Since the breast are developed owing to carbonates mixed with milk which disturb the hormonal mechanism of the body”.
“The mixing chemicals of the milk are easily available in the market that helps them (farm owner) make 12 liters of milk from one liter”, the supplier disclosed the ill intensions of the practice. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken up the case of adulterated milk and ordered ban on animal hormonal injections.
Saeed Khan, a father of three children said that on the doctor’s advice, his kids were regularly having milk due to their weak body. However, one of his children experienced diarrhea complications which deteriorated further. “After consulting with the doctor regarding this issue, he advised me to stop using the milk as he feared it might be due to contaminated milk and now my kid is fine,” Khan said.
A visit to a local dairy farm exposed serious unhygienic conditions where the cattle were. Milking was being performed without using safety gears. During the visit, it was witnessed that the milk pot was in a poor condition and was kept close to animal wastes. When the owner of the farm was asked about the unhygienic environment, Mohammad Nabi Shah gave a poor excuse to Truth tracker/News lens Pakistan claiming that he was trying his best to keep the area clean but sometime there was too much work pressure that’s why he couldn’t take care of the environment.
When asked about adulteration of milk by dairy farm owners, he refuted the suppliers’ claim of dairy farmers being responsible for mixing chemicals into the milk.
“We don’t mix anything in the milk, however I don’t have an idea of the milk supplied from Punjab,” he claimed.
KP’s Halal Food Regularity Authority(HFRA) Spokesperson Attaullah Khan said the issue of unhygienic condition in dairy farms was in their agenda and that they will look into it. The HFRA is responsible for regulating the food pricing in the city while keeping a proper monitoring of the market.” We are developing a proper mechanism to monitor the dairy farms in the city to maintain cleanliness and provide quality milk to the consumers”.
Experts believe that since the milk is an essential commodity consumed by people of all ages, the precious life of our next generation is left at the mercy of milk mafia whereas the concerned department is only making cosmetic arrangements and is busy in dealing with the situation.