MILK is fit for consumption if the somatic cell count (bacterial count) is less than 200,000. The more milk is contaminated or adulterated the more rise in somatic cell count.
The somatic cell count is an accurate system of measuring milk quality. If a cow or buffalo drinks contaminated water or eats contaminated or substandard feed, the ill-effects of water and feed are carried into milk and raise the somatic cell count.
Therefore, cleanliness is very important for milk quality. Milk fat required for human health is considered at the level of 3.5 pc to 4 pc in a glass of milk: more or less than this is not recommended. In Pakistan milk is sold and purchased on the basis of fat contents.
It is interesting to mention that fat contents can be manoeuvred and can be increased by adding fat of animals, cheap oils or ghee.
The more you try to manoeuvre milk quality, the greater the rise in somatic cell count.
If you visit dairy barns and sheds in Pakistan, you will come to know the filthy conditions. Everything at the site is dirty. Milking is done in the open, without observing the standard procedures.
After milking, it should be immediately pasteurised and then kept at the temperature of 4 degrees Celsius to maintain the quality of milk.
What happens here is that mostly milking is done by hand in the open, milk is contaminated with polluted air, water, manure, flies, etc. Then it is sold to customers.
Milk becomes more dangerous when antibiotics are used in excess. God has made these cows and buffaloes in such a way that the effects of whatever they eat or drink can be recorded in milk.
Thus milk quality is directly linked with the quality of feed and the quality of water they consume.
About 83 pc of milk is water. So, the water quality fed to the animals should be clean enough that if a person has to drink it, he should not hesitate to do so.
In Pakistan the somatic cell count of milk in normal barns across Pakistan is somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000, and the concept of pasteurising is foreign.
Dairy animals are so delicate that if you feed them forage or grass of distinctive flavour, you can feel the flavour in milk.
Udder health of a milking animal is vital. Washing, cleaning, disinfecting and drying udder are standard procedures before milking in developed countries. In Pakistan, udder health of milking animals is of least priority.
When people milk animals with infected udders, then they are only milking blood, pus and bacteria. What are multinationals doing with this contaminated milk?
As multinationals buy milk from the open market for processing, there is a possibility that international standards of milk quality, based on milk somatic cell count, are not being maintained.
It is advisable that multinationals must print on milk containers the somatic cell count. I know they print fat contents and other nutritional facts, but avoid mentioning the quality.
Another important point is that milk is mostly consumed by recuperating babies, infants and people. Thus, we must know the quality of milk we use.
Dera Ghazi Khan