Pesticides found in milk in India

November 2, 1994

Pesticides found in milk in India

A seven-year study of pesticide residues in milk in 12 Indian states has attracted considerable public concern. The study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), found that a high proportion of milk food samples — bovine, human and other — had residues of pesticides HCH and DDT above government-established tolerance limits.

A meeting held in July 1994 to discuss the report, Surveillance of Food Contaminants in India 1993, was attended by prominent activists, scientists, social scientists and politicians.

The report, based on work carried out at six government food testing labs, analysed bovine and infant milk foods for DDT and HCH. Analysis was extended to the presence of metal and aflatoxins for other food samples. Unlike similar government reports, this document was widely circulated and attracted much public attention. Over 50% of India's 800 million people are vegetarians who consider milk an important part of their diet, and who often drink milk during illness and convalescence.

Dr G.S. Totefa, who summed up the ICMR report, pointed out that of the 2205 samples of bovine milk, 85% contained levels of HCH isomers above the tolerance limits.

The highest levels of HCH contamination were documented in the state of Andhra Pradesh, followed by Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In Maharashtra, 74% of DDT samples exceeded the upper limit. Of the 186 samples of baby foods taken from 20 commercial brands, DDT was present in about 70% of the samples, and HCH in 94%. Out of 32 Indian states, 25 had not been taking residue samples from milk when the report was issued.

Participants noted that there had been no prosecutions or warnings issued since permissible limits of pesticide residues were established in 1968, and that no pesticide limits had been set for animal feed, water, air or soil.
[From Pesticide Action Network Updates Service.]

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