Milk is considered to be one of the best sources of nutrients like protein, fat, carbohydrates and minerals making it an ideal food for infants and adults alike. The importance of milk to our dietary needs has made it a prime target for adulteration, the most common method known to us all being the addition of water. Unfortunately, it does not stop there. Harmful chemicals including melamine, formalin, detergents, sugars, urea and a host of other substances are used as adulterants. One common adulteration method used in India is to mix an emulsifier to vegetable oil resulting in a white paste. The paste is then diluted and mixed with chemicals like urea until the consistency of milk is achieved. The proportion of these ingredients is calculated to mimic the fat and solid not fat (SNF) percentages of unadulterated milk. The cost to human health and well being upon consumption of this synthetic milk is huge: it deprives consumers of the vital nutrients otherwise obtained from unadulterated milk while at the same time being harmful to health. Currently used testing based on fat and lactometer levels used to detect adulterated milk obviously fail in this scenario. Thus there is an urgent need for developing other measuring techniques to address and overcome this major health concern. For maximum societal impact the measuring platform should be cheap, easy to use, robust and precise with high sensitivity.
Prof. V. Lakshminarayan’s group at RRI has proposed a simple test that satisfies all the above requirements. The test is based on impedance measurement of the ionic constituents of normal milk vs. adulterated milk that can act as a first level screening to check for adulterated milk samples. Additionally, being a hand held device empowers the consumer to demand “on the spot” screening of milk samples.
The basic research was completed at RRI while collaborators in the Department of Electronics Systems and Engineering (DESE) design, Indian Institute of Science and the DST-National Hub for Health Care Instrumentation (NHHID) will undertake the product design and manufacture.
It is envisioned that a simple “Dip and Read” device can be made available at milk collection and distribution centers to rapidly assess for synthetic milk.
A picture of the hand held device to detect synthetic milk