It seems Indian and Pakistani Punjab is in the race when it comes to contaminated and adulterated milk. United Punjab was known for health before partition. Regrettably, in recent decades, both sides of Punjab are known more for scandals. For years now people of Punjab on both sides are suffering.
As much as 80 percent packed as well as unpacked milk is adulterated and contamination is posing serious health hazards to Lahorites, says data collected during five years by City District Government Food Department in 2008. In June 2008 Mr Shahbaz Sharif became the Chief Minister of Punjab, in December 2008 he led some serious steps. CM Punjab announced to set up a Food Authority to mark off the phenomenal increase in adulteration.
According to a report published in national newspapers in 2008, adulterants in milk include urea, sub-standard cooking oil, unhygienic water, formalin, a chemical used by doctors to preserve the human body, penicillin for enhancing the thickness and fragrance of milk, hair removing powder, sweetening agents to improve its taste and urea to lend it uniformity.
Milk suppliers use Formalin, a chemical used by doctors to preserve the human body, to preserve large quantities of milk during transportation to Lahore from rural countries. The report added that milkmen also injected unsupervised and inconsistent doses of steroids and other chemicals into cattle to obtain more milk, but this brought down the calcium content in the milk and the affected human body adversely. The report disclosed that during the examination of samples, the presence of the industrial chemical, melamine, have been found in milk powder manufactured by multinational milk companies. The report informed that melamine is an industrial compound found in plastics that has been practiced by unscrupulous manufacturers. Melamine, that has caused kidney stones or kidney failure, especially among infants, is added to the milk in order to lower prices, the report said.
Pakistan was the sixth largest milk producer in the world in 2010. In 2016 Pakistan with a 40 billion liters per year production capacity, have become the third largest milk producer in the global. Overall, the industry contributes to 11% of the country’s GDP.
In 2010 Khawaja Muhammad Asif of PMLN submitted a study submitted to the University of Cambridge revealed that Pakistan produced 17 billion liters of milk and consumed 38 billion liters and anybody could explain how it was doubled. He stated that companies mixed urea and other contaminations in the milk.
“Pakistanis are drinking white poison in the shape of packed and unpacked milk”
PMLQ’s Riaz Fatyana said during the proceedings of a parliamentary committee on food adulteration that government laboratories had found that milk companies were adulterating it with bleaching powder, urea and muddy water and that milk supplied by none of the companies was fit for human ingestion. He said his own investigation had revealed that the most of the adulterated milk came from military farms in Okara. The supply of adulterated and substandard milk was naked cruelty to the citizenry and the government should seriously look into it. The loose milk available with milkmen was much better, he said. Bushra Gohar of ANP said the food adulteration was a life-threatening issue, but it should be expected that imposition of RGST would improve the milk quality. She stated she was also concerned that profits of the milk companies were going out of the country.
The above revelations were submitted during a public hearing of the Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue in 2010.
In September 2011, an inter-court appeal (ICA) was registered after an LHC single bench’s judgement on December 22nd, 2010 that dismissed a petition filed by the Watan Party through Barrister Zafarullah Khan, who had asserted that melamine and other chemicals injurious to human health were being used in the packaged milk. The bench had held that a report by a German laboratory had declared the milk fit for human consumption and hence the media reports which claimed the milk was adulterated had no value.
The petitioner submitted that MNAs, including Khawaja Asif of the PMLN, Riaz Fatyana the PMLQ and Faisal Saleh Hayat of the PML-Q had also set up the issue during proceedings of the parliamentary committee on food and adulteration. He contended that out of 19,718 samples of milk collected by the Food Department in the last five years, almost 17,529 samples were found adulterated
In April 2016 the Punjab Food Authority wasted more than 6000 litres of unhealthy and unhygienic milk during a crackdown.
Justice Ayesha A Malik took up the request filed by the Barrister Zafarullah Khan of Watan Party on April 2016 The Lahore High Court today sought assistance from the Advocate General Punjab in a petition challenging the sale of poor and adulterated milk in the province, causing fatal diseases to citizens.
In July 2016 the two-member bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman heard the appeal filed by Watan Party against the sale of adulterated milk at Supreme Court Lahore Registry. The bench made remarks that no one would be permitted to play havoc with the lives of citizens and converted it into a show moto notice due to the seriousness of the matter.
On September 2016, Supreme Court ordered a chemical examination of all domestic and international brands selling packed milk in Pakistan. The order was brought out by a two judge bench after a petition from Barrister Zafarullah Khan against the government of Punjab for not banning these products.
On 27th Dec 2016 a hearing was kept back in Supreme Court Lahore registry against selling of unhealthy milk in Punjab. The lawsuit was heard by Justice Saqib Nisar, and Justice Sheikh Azmat Syed. An examination report was submitted proving contaminated elements in milk produced and propagated by some companies. Ten pasteurized milk samples were tested by the Pakistan Council of Scientific and industrial research (PCSIR). Out of 10 pasteurised milk samples only one found fit for human consumption.
Justice Saqib Nisar stated that we are allowing the Punjab Food Authority to carry out its activity throughout Punjab. He called for the Director General of Punjab Food Authority to visit all districts in Punjab and take samples for test as a representative of the court. He further said that this case is of great importance, we will conclude the case of unhealthy milk as clean water and pure milk are basic necessities of all residents. The court ordered Punjab Food Authority to bring action against unhealthy milk vendors throughout Punjab and submit a report in the coming hearing in January, 2017.
Unfortunately even in 2016/2017 percentage of this criminal activity is equally strong as it was in 2005 or 2008 or 2010.
Despite Supreme Court’s strict stance and in the bearing of strict Chief Minister of Punjab couple of headlines I caught in media last month;
On 17th January 2017 Punjab Food Authority wasted 800 litres of milk adulterated with toxic chemicals in Faisalabad.
On 17th January 2017 Punjab Food Authority seized over 2,000 litres of substandard milk from various localities of Rawalpindi.
On 19th January 20,000 litres of adulterated milk caught in Peshawar.
How come our government fails to address this serious issue of unfit milk being sold under the banner of top brands? Regrettably, this is a neglected subject that requires a great deal of attention, as there is a glaring absence of safeguards on food items in Pakistan. The culprits of this crime against humanity sell unhygienic milk openly and without any fear of being caught or punished.If strict government of Punjab couldn’t bring any improvement and adulterated milk is still sold openly, imagine the situation in rest of the provinces. We can merely hope for an improvement.