More and more consumers are switching to branded packaged milk due to concerns regarding adulteration.This report will, among other things, put to rest most of our concerns about milk adulteration, contamination and affirm or dispute the health related claims of leading brands of packaged toned milk. We tested 9 popular brands on a range of quality, safety and acceptability parameters. The tests were conducted at an NABL accredited laboratory. The samples were tested as per specification laid out by FSS Regulations, 2011 and relevant Indian Standard IS: 13688: 1999.
- Mother Dairy
- Namaste India
- Milk Fat
- Solids Not Fat
- Vitamin A
- Saturated Fats
- Total Plate Count
- Coliform Count
- Methylene Blue Reduction Time
- Adulterants: Neutralizers, Detergent, Urea, Formaldehyde and Melamine
Consumer Voice Recommendations
Value for Money
- Based on the overall score, the top performer is Ananda.
- The value-for-money brand is Heritage.
- Most of the brands have standard fat content to just meet the minimum requirement of 3 per cent for fat and 8.5 per cent for SNF.
- All brands of packaged milk were found free from adulterants such as neutralizers, detergent, caustic soda, urea, formaldehyde and melamine.
- Food regulator has not prescribed microbiological-safety requirements for aerobic plate count and coliform count.
- All nine brands of milk were found within the specified limits for microbiological safety. The tested samples fulfilled the total plate count requirement at plant level (to be below 30,000 cfu/ml).
- Arsenic and lead were not detected in any of the brands.
- In sensory panel tests, Paras performed on top followed by Heritage.
FOR PHYSICOCHEMICAL PARAMETERS
Fat is an essential part of any balanced diet, providing essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins and a concentrated source of energy. The fat content of milk is the proportion of milk made up by butterfat. As per Indian Standard and FSS Regulations, 2011, fat content of toned milk should not be less than three per cent by mass.
- All brands met the minimum required limit for fat content.
- DMS (3.30 per cent) had the highest fat content, followed by Ananda, Heritage, Madhusudan, Mother Dairy and Namaste India.
- Amul, Paras and Kwality (3.0 per cent each) just about fulfilled the minimum requirement.
Solids Not Fat (SNF)
Milk has mainly two parts: fat and solids not fat (SNF). Apart from fat, all other solids such as protein, lactose, vitamins and minerals together make up SNF. SNF is the most essential part of the milk. As per Indian Standard and FSS Regulations, it should not be less than 8.5 per cent by mass.
- All brands met the minimum requirement for SNF. It was highest in DMS (8.7 per cent).
- Vitamin A content was found highest in Kwality (281.4 IU or international units/100 ml), followed by Ananda (134.3 IU). It was lowest in Namaste India (37.3) and Paras (42.9).
Milk is a well-known source of calcium and hence expected to be rich in calcium content.
- Calcium content was highest in Namaste India (160 mg/100 ml), followed by Heritage (156.4). It was lowest in Amul (124.4).
Cholesterol, especially bad cholesterol, also increases the risk of nervous-system problems, brain-synapse connectivity, gall-bladder stones and perhaps even cancer. These cholesterols are inherently found in the milk fats. The intake of cholesterol should not be more than 300 mg/day.
- Paras (66.70 mg/100 ml) had the lowest cholesterol content, followed by Heritage (69.80 mg/100 ml).
- Namaste India (82.8 mg/100 ml) had the highest cholesterol content, followed by DMS (80.2 mg/100 ml).
Saturated fats are inherent fats in milk.
- Saturated fat in the tested brands was in the range of 2.2 per cent to 2.4 per cent. It was highest in DMS (2.4 per cent).
Tests for Adulteration and Heavy Metals
We conducted tests for presence of these adulterants: neutralizer, detergent, urea, formaldehyde and melamine. These were absent in all the brands tested.
Heavy metals have a relatively high density and are toxic or poisonous at high concentrations. We analysed the milk samples for presence of lead and arsenic. As per the requirement laid down by FSS Regulations, lead should not be more than 2 ppm and arsenic not more than 0.1 ppm.
All the brands cleared these tests since lead and arsenic were not found within the detection limit (detection limit being 0.02 ppm for lead and 0.01 ppm for arsenic)
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) is an enzyme naturally present in all raw milks and is considered to be an indicator of proper milk pasteurisation. Complete pasteurisation will inactivate the enzyme to below levels that are detectable by conventional methods. Because the heat stability of ALP is greater than that of pathogens that may be present in milk, the enzyme serves as an indicator of product safety. However, the failure to detect ALP activity does not guarantee that the product is pathogen-free.
All nine brands passed this test.
FOR MICROBIOLOGICAL ACTIVITY
Microbiological contamination is a very serious issue for milk. Microorganisms are responsible for many food-borne diseases. We conducted tests for total plate count, yeast and mould count, coliform count, E. coli, S. aureus, Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria monocytogenes, anaerobic spore count, and methylene blue reduction time (MBRT).
Note: Food regulator FSSAI has specified requirements for microbiological safety for milk at market (retail) level. However, requirements with regard to aerobic plate count and coliform count are not applicable at market/retail level. The requirements for Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, B. cereus, sulphite-reducing clostridia and E. Sakazakii are applicable at retailer level.
Total plate count
The total plate count is a measure of the biological activity in milk sample. This is a count of all bacteria that will grow in aerobic conditions. For pasteurized milk, microbiological requirements have been prescribed for aerobic plate count, coliform count and S. aureus only at manufacturing-process level; there is no requirement given at market/retailer level. Since consumers buy milk from retail shops, requirements should be specified accordingly. We conducted the microbiological tests on poly-packed milk purchased from retailers. As per FSS Regulations, total plate count should not be more than 30,000/gram at plant level.
- None of the brands exceeded the specified limit
- Total plate count was found highest in Paras (13,000 cfu/ml) but it was within the specified limit.
- Keeping in view the level of total plate count, all brands may be safe but we don’t recommend direct consumption unless the milk is adequately boiled.
Coliform bacteria are destroyed at a temperature of about 46 degrees C, which means pasteurisation can easily eliminate them up to a certain number. The presence of coliform bacteria in pasteurized milk indicates that there were unsanitary conditions or practices after pasteurisation and before packing in the milk plant itself.
- All brands cleared the test.
These were found absent: E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria monocytogenes.
All brands cleared the tests for S. aureus and anaerobic spore count.
Methylene blue reduction time (MBRT), in hour
Methylene blue reduction time is an indicative test to check the bacterial load in milk. As per Indian Standard, MBR time for milk is not less than five hours.
- Except Paras, all other brands met the requirement for MBRT.
FOR SENSORY ATTRIBUTES
Panel members judged the samples for these sensory attributes: colour and appearance, odour, flavour and taste. Conducted under the supervision of trained experts, these tests were based on IS: 7768-1975. Among other things, milk should be free from suspended particles, filth and foreign matters. It should not have stale, acidic or any other abnormal odour. Milk should not have any cooked, oxidized, rancid, metallic or neutralizer flavour. It should be free from any objectionable flavour due to adulterants and other additives. Milk should be free from watery, ropy and curdy body.
- All brands performed well in the sensory tests.
- Paras was rated as the more acceptable brand and was followed by Heritage.
- The least liked brand was Kwality.