Don’t we deserve better reporting?

If you read ‘The Hindu’ this morning, it is very likely that this article, ‘ Adulterated milk may contain washing powder and chemicals‘ completely missed your attention. Isn’t this something of paramount importance to us, the regular citizens of the city? Don’t we deserve good milk, and if not, at least a good news report on this issue? I am quite surprised at such a half-baked news report from ‘The Hindu’.

This is a tiny little article placed right at the top of page 2, attracting very little attention, since the colorful ad just below it is given the most importance on this page. The article gives us no more information than what the title itself says.

Imagine having soap in your morning cup of tea. It may be shocking, but a recent story by a television channel showed how adulterated milk is being sold in our cities and towns and Bangalore may not be an exception.

Now, obviously, this is just a commentary after seeing a programme on TV. Neither is the channel nor the show mentioned! ‘may be shocking‘???!!

Experts say adulterated milk may contain urea, hydrogen peroxide, washing powder, shampoo and other chemicals. Detergents and washing powders are added to create foam while other chemicals are added for taste. “All kinds of materials are going into milk, including starch and paper pulp. Washing powders and chemicals used to make it more thick or foamy can definitely cause stomach upset. Consuming adulterated milk could be harmful for health in the long run,” says P.S.V. Rao, endocrinologist.

Now, what kind of experts are saying that the milk we are consuming can contain all these unimaginable substances? Why is P.S.V. Rao, an endocrinologist telling that we are having starch, paper pulp etc in our milk? Ideally, shouldn’t it be some kind of food related government department that we should be quoting and hearing this info from?

So, what can you do to check whether the milk you are drinking is adulterated or not? Try this: it is called the soda test. Take 5 ml of milk in a test tube and add 5 ml alcohol, followed by 4 to 5 drops of caustic soda. If the colour of the milk changes to pinkish red, then it is likely that the milk is adulterated.

To detect the presence of starch, take 3 ml milk in a test tube and boil it thoroughly. Cool it to room temperature and add 2 to 3 drops of iodine solution. If the milk changes its colour to blue, it indicates that it is adulterated with starch.

What am I getting from this “news report”? If I need to know whether the milk I am drinking and feeding my family is adulterated or not, I better go and find a test tube, alcohol, caustic soda, iodine and become a student of chemistry? I don’t know about you, but I for one, do not have any of these at home. Isn’t it somebody else’s onus to do that for us? Also, we don’t even know if this applies to the Nandini milk that the government supplies to most of us Bangaloreans for our everyday consumption. What did the staff reporter hope to achieve by publishing this news report? Just drive moms like me to worry over one of the most basic ingredients in the family’s diet?

I don’t know if I am upset over the state of affairs of our milk supply or over the utter lack of responsibility on the part of the staff reporter from a newspaper of such repute as ‘The Hindu’! It seems like after all the ad placements on this page, there was just this little space left to be filled up. They probably didn’t even expect anybody to be reading it. So then, it probably didn’t matter that it was such casual reporting of something of such importance! They could have done without these 3 paragraphs.

UPDATE: May 28, 1:00 PM

I read this piece last evening. Since this morning, I have been trying to lay my hands on some caustic soda and iodine solution. I have been to some chemist stores, but nobody seems to be carrying either of these items. I am keen to see how Nandini will test. I am rooting for Nandini to win! :) Lets see. I am not sure where else to look for these items, if you have a clue, please let me know. I asked the chemists if they know where I would get these, and they are not too sure; they think these are probably available in stores on Avenue Road.

On coming home, I searched for info about caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) and this is what I learnt with regards to its safety factor:

Solid sodium hydroxide or solutions containing high concentrations of sodium hydroxide may cause chemical burns, permanent injury or scarring, and blindness.

Solvation of sodium hydroxide is highly exothermic, and the resulting heat may cause heat burns or ignite flammables.

Is this what they want the readers to be handling at home without any precautions?

14 Comments so far

  1. RAVI A (unregistered) on May 27th, 2007 @ 10:35 pm

    While you have a few valid points, I would reserve any harsh judgment on The Hindu. Maybe you are shooting from the hips. I watched the original program (I forget the channel), and it seemed to me to be a hyped up exaggeration and sensationalism to attract viewership as most channels today are wont to do – it is probably an isolated incident and affects a very small portion of milk distribution. The Hindu did the right thing is not sensationalizing it with a front page headline and causing unnecessary panic. This is what makes Hindu so trustworthy for readers who want a well balanced reporting.

  2. Chitra (unregistered) on May 27th, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

    What ‘The Hindu’ could have done is to not even have published this piece. I am a loyal ‘The Hindu’ reader and just expected better.

  3. Anton (unregistered) on May 27th, 2007 @ 11:53 pm

    I agree: the Hindu should have gone the whole 9 yards, or not printed anything at all.

    Looks like it was just an unsubstantiated filler to tide over an awkward blank space. You can get away with anything, it seems. There’s no one (regulatory body) to pull them up on this bad call…

    And why would Nandini want to rock the boat? :^(

  4. BNB (unregistered) on May 27th, 2007 @ 11:58 pm

    BTW, there was an article by Shakunthala Narasimhan earlier this week in the Deccan Herald about the milk you get in Bangalore being at least a day old by the time it reaches the consumer. Most of the milk sachets, it seems don’t have the correct dates on them despite rules that require them. And the ones with dates, she found them to be a day old (at least)

  5. Ravi (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 12:10 am

    Boy, reading this news item gives me the creeps! Re: “…. if the colour of the milk changes to pinkish red, then it is likely that the milk is adulterated”, I wish the report went on to say what would the rights of the consumer should he find the milk really adulterated! Is there a way / forum that he could complain to; what action could be expected etc etc. This info. would have helped too!

  6. Rao (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 2:45 am

    Chitra avare, sometimes ignorance is bliss. Things seem normal and then people show knee jerk reactions after such news items appear, as it is Today’s tendency to react/over-react to anything and everything.

    I would give such news as much weight as “The Hindu” chose to give. If nothing happened to me before reading the news item, in all probability I should be ok after reading it as well.
    It should not give anybody “crepes” especially if one thinks of the milk supplied in the West, where they are supposed to be having more stringent norms and means, than us.

    They have a “factory” approach to everything including milk and cows. The bovines are injected with all kinds of pharmaceutical interventions that are meant for the cows to grow up in the fastest amount of time and yield maximum volume of milk possible, that could have disastrous side effects, as with most pharmaceutical drugs.

    Fortunately we should not be having that kind of adulteration as we are not “Americanized” to that extent. I’m not suggesting that adulteration is to be tolerated, but the kind of reaction seen here is unwarranted.

    There are all kind of colas and/or junk foods and non-junk food items loaded with pesticides and what not, that should give us the “Creeps”.

  7. Chitra (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 5:41 am

    Rao, what you are saying is about the milk. My gripe is with the reporting. I am quite convinced that we could have done without this ‘no effort’ 3 paragraphs.

  8. silkboard (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 9:05 am

    Chitra, guys – if a media house (channel, paper) wants to get into these things, there are tons of things to “expose”. Ever noticed dates on Nandini packets? 50% of the times no! Did you know Nandini packet distribution involves local mafia. Crooks have monopoly in distribution of milk (newspaper etc etc), they maintain their monopoly by terrorizing new entrepreneurs in the area.

    Did you know that the nicely wrapped food you eat in the Rajdhani and Shatabdi is sometimes more than 8-12 hours old and cooked mostly in stinking dirty kitchens. You might because some papers carried a CAG report on this. Did you know that half the guys at railway stations sell products over MRP? (some airlines and aiport snack bars too). How dirty and unhygienic are our stations? Seen any paper carrying a report on station cleanliness?

    Move to corruption. How tough is it to expose corrupt folks who are around us by the millions? I bet you can walk out any given day and “expose” a dozen people. Petrol bunks anyone? RTO agents? encroachments? Primary schools? You cant even be blind to some of what goes on at these places!

    The way in which media ignores the day to day difficulties and dirt around us, we should feel belittled and ashamed that some marketing guy sitting in the media house decides that our personal miseries are not “sexy” enough to sell on TV or print.

    What is it about our “media”? Fear? Incompetence? Or trivializing something (day to day stuff) simply because it is in abundance?

  9. Chitra (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 10:33 am

    Yes Silkboard, it is the trivialising that gets me, and of course the glaring ‘no accountability’.

  10. Ramkumar (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

    I read this piece in the Hindu and had the same thoughts.

    What puzzles me is that this article got through the editorial process. The piece does not have a pointer to the source – does not have any specifics on where the problem is – or does it even apply to Bangalore (in this case Nandini).

    If it is based on a Television programme, then there was no clear reference to the same.

    The icing on the cake was the “lab project” that they gave to the readers.

    Overall this was a pathetic piece of reproting (and editing??) – given that “The Hindu” is a newspaper that prides itself on “highest standards”.

  11. Anton (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

    ‘There are all kind of colas and/or junk foods and non-junk food items loaded with pesticides and what not, that should give us the “Creeps”.’

    That was quite an insightful AND throught-provoking comment. Let’s see:

    Scenario 1
    Whistle blower CSE (an NGO)
    Defendant: Soft drink majors (soft target)
    Prosecutor (Indian Governmnet)

    Scenario 2
    Whistle blower P.S.V. Rao, endocrinologist (who he?)
    Defendant: Milk cooperatives (hard, immune, monopolistic targets, by virtue of being quasi government in constitution)
    Prosecutor (Indian Governmnet)

    All hell breaks loose in (1) and nothing happens to the violator in (2): it’s not hard to see why.

  12. Furniture Bengalooru (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 10:50 pm

    Hey if you want live temperature of bangalore visit Bengalooru temperature

  13. Shilpa (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

    A news paper article had once reported that even in India ,cows are injected with harmones(oxytosin – I think)to increase the yield of milk!!This gets into the milk which is consumed by us.
    We cannot excuse the adultration of a basic food like milk by saying that colas etc are adulterated.When we drink a cola or any other soft drink for that matter ,we are fully aware of its pros and cons .But ,when we give a glass full of milk 3 times a day to a young ‘un ,we are not thinking washing powder /harmones/chemicals!!!!!!!!This IS a serious matter people.My little one is deficient in calcium and has been recomended by the doc to drink PLENTY of milk.I had no issues ,cause he loves milk.But now ,I’m wondering………

  14. usha (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 8:14 pm

    I just noticed that the last comment that I had sent has been held back…I am a little surprised..I dont think there was anything there to justify that unless an opposing viewpoint is unwelcome?

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