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Leaky sachets, not pesticides, are the most frequent complaint

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Chennai, Sept. 1

Twenty lakh litres of milk per day is what Tamilnadu Co-operative Milk Producers' Federation Ltd (TCMPF) processes and sells in Chennai and district markets. More popularly known by the brand Aavin, the Federation has a 65 per cent of market share in the state. In the context of the current debate on pesticide residues in soft drinks, Mr B.K. Prasad, Managing Director of the Federation, explains that milk can be contaminated in various ways (see Table).

A frequently asked question is whether fodder with pesticide or fertiliser traces can lead to residues in milk too. "Agricultural crop residues are the main sources of pesticide ingestion by cattle," says Mr Prasad.

"However, not all the pesticides consumed by the cow would be secreted in milk. The types of pesticide compounds are organochlorine, organo phosphorus, organo sulphur and carbamate. Most organophosphate and carbamate compounds are readily metabolised and excreted through urine and dung. But liphophillic compounds like DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) and HCH (hexachlorocyclohexane) are deposited on fatty tissues of the animals, and secreted through milk fat."

Mr Prasad points out that endosulphan, a persistent organochlorine pesticide, which is widely used in our country, is not transferred from feed to milk, as it is converted to water-soluble metabolities and excreted through urine. However, "If DDT and HCH are found in feed, then there is likelihood of milk getting contaminated with these compounds."

How does the Federation ensure that the milk that it receives from various sources is free from impurities? "We have improved the quality of raw milk at the producers' level by motivating them to use clean and sterilised liquid sterillants for udders, milkers' hands, and collecting vessels. We have been in the process of installing of bulk milk coolers at society level to improve initial bacterial quality of raw milk," says Mr Prasad.

"Cans are cleaned and sterilised by using lodophor or chlorine solution. For the sake of better hygiene, we are replacing, in a phased manner, aluminium (40 litre-capacity) milk cans, which are used for carrying milk from societies to milk plant/chilling centre," says the Aavin chief.

"Quality control laboratories have been functioning in each district union to check the quality of milk from primary milk cooperatives. Labs in Erode and Madurai monitor the level of pesticide residue, alfa toxin M1, antibiotic residue, pathogenic microorganism and heavy metals of the raw milk received at milk plant."

CMP practices

On the pesticide issue, again, Mr Prasad assures that as a result of CMP or `Clean Milk Production' practices adopted in the company, persistence level of pesticide residue in milk is lower than the tolerance limits (ranging from 0.01 ppm to 1.25 ppm, that is, parts per million) prescribed by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.

He informs that Aavin sends milk samples periodically to laboratories accredited by NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) such as CFTRI (Central Food Technological Research Institute) and NDRI (National Dairy Research Institute).

At all the stages of milk production, viz. receipt, processing, packing, storage and finished product, Aavin runs quality tests, adding to almost a score.

"Quality control wing functions round the clock, all days, to identify and eliminate poor quality milk, and to ensure despatch of safe quality milk to consumers," avers Mr Prasad.

"All the four TCMPF Aavin milk factories in Chennai Metro are ISO 9001:2000 Quality Management Systems certified and have obtained Food Safety HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) certification."

To address consumer grievances, the Federation has set up a support cell, and established a toll free help line 1800-4253300. In addition, this is, to the complaint form on www.aavinmilk.com. "At present the most frequently received complaint from the customers at Chennai Metro is leakage of milk sachets," says Mr Prasad. Not about pesticide residues, thankfully.

D. Murali

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 2, 2006)
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