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NGO says purity tests undertaken on seven leading brands revealed levels of bacteria and coliform count way above permissible limitsHighlighting the level of contamination in packaged milk available in the market, Ludhiana-based NGO Consumer Protection Force has said purity tests undertaken on seven leading brands sold in the market, both of co-operative and private sectors, revealed levels of bacteria and coliform count way above the permissible limits.Presenting the findings, NGO president Rajiv Tandon, however, refused to reveal the names of the brands on Sunday, saying they did not want to target any particular manufacturer, as the problem of contamination was similar across all the seven samples. According to Tandon, the samples were sent to the SGS Labs in Gurgaon on May 3 and the results were received on May 10."We decided to get the milk tested on two basic parameters. One, the total plate count (TPC), which essentially shows the total bacteria count in the milk and includes bacteria, epithelial cells, polymorphs, lymphocytes and macrophages. Two, the coliform count in milk, which is used as a general indicator of sanitary conditions in dairy production and processing environments. Some coliforms can cause illness in people, especially young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. They may cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and acute kidney failure in severe cases," said Tandon, while addressing the media.Giving the results of the lab tests, he said, "The results were shocking. In case of the TPC, the acceptable levels for pasteurised milk as per industry norms is 30,000 cfu/ml. If the TPC is more than 50,000 cfu/ml, the milk is unfit for human consumption and should be destroyed. To our disbelief, the TPC in all brands ran into lakhs, ranging from 10,00,000 cfu/ml to 6,60,00,000 cfu/ml and yet this milk is being sold in the market with impunity. While the norm for Coliform Count is 10 clu/ml, it ranged from 60 clu/ml to 7,10,000 clu/ml across the brands. To our mind, the milk that we are drinking is poison and urgent steps are required by the government to stop this mass slow poisoning."The NGO blamed the multiple bacteria count on either the faulty pasteurisation process or unhygienic conditions prevailing in the plant. "Typically, the farmer milks the cow at around four am. An unrefrigerated tanker does the rounds and collects milk from various collection points in villages and transports it to the chilling centre. Usually, this tanker reaches the centre after a gap of five to six hours. The milk is then processed and pasteurisation takes place where, theoretically, all bacteria should get eliminated. This, however, is obviously not happening, either because of lapses in the pasteurisation process or unhygienic conditions inside the plant. The milk is then packed in pouches and again transported in unrefrigerated vans to shops, where it lies in trays in the open. The bacteria count multiplies at a geometric pace and that is why it is running into crores. The milk we drink today has most probably been milked from the cow a couple of days earlier," said Tandon.Talking about the possible solutions, Sanjeev Ghanoli, chairman of the Consumer Protection Force, said, "It's about time these milk companies start adopting modern milking and packaging techniques. They have to look at processing norms and policies followed by the European countries, where milk is untouched by hand and hygiene standards are maintained through mechanised milking techniques."
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