PMA demands end to raw milk sale by 2022

January 16, 2020

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Dr Tipu Sultan speaks at a presser organised at the PMA House on Wednesday.
—White Star
Dr Tipu Sultan speaks at a presser organised at the PMA House on Wednesday. —White Star

KARACHI: Despite its high consumption in Pakistan, raw milk is contaminated to the point that many disease-causing germs are not killed even if it is boiled. Raw milk becomes safe for human consumption only when it goes through ultra-high temperature (UHT) processing or pasteurisation, said speakers at a press conference held at the PMA House on Wednesday.

They demanded that the provincial government ban sale and purchase of raw milk by 2022, as announced by the Punjab government, and ensure that safe milk was available to the common man at affordable prices.

Highlighting the gravity of the matter, Dr Tipu Sultan, former Pakistan Medical Association president, said except a few countries, including Pakistan and India, the whole world had shifted to using pasteurised/UHT-treated milk as studies had proved efficacy of those methods.

“People here don’t know that raw milk is contaminated and boiling doesn’t kill all disease-causing germs. In fact, boiling makes it worse as milk loses its nutritional value,” he told journalists.

‘You name any bacteria and it is present in raw milk’

Pakistan is among the world’s top milk-producing countries but it is of the poorest quality, he added.

Filthy environment

Milk, Dr Sultan pointed out, was supposed to be a complete diet but it’s not so in Pakistan. It’s because of the filthy environment animals and their caretakers lived in, poor handling and transportation practices and the deliberate contamination done by farmers for any monetary benefit, including increasing shelf-life of milk and making it thicker.

“You name any bacteria and it is present in raw milk. Would any of you drink this water or milk?” he asked journalists while pointing to the two glasses placed on the table, one filled with tap water and the other with raw milk.

Sharing similar concerns, Dr Rafiq Khanani, president of the Infection Control Society of Pakistan, said that he had tested several samples of fresh raw and boiled milk over the years and all had shown serious contamination.

“Given the disease outbreaks we experience off and on, including the recent drug-resistant typhoid, it’s important that people know that boiled milk could also make them sick,” he said, adding that a source of tapeworm infections is contaminated milk.

The speakers strongly criticised the provincial government, especially the Sindh Food Authority, for failing to ensure that citizens got safe water and milk.

They questioned why the Sindh government was not serious about public health issues and why a line of action to gradually shift towards safe packaged milk production was not announced as was being done by the Punjab government.

PMA-Centre general secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad said one of the risks in consuming harmful milk was its possible contamination with aflatoxins, which were poisonous cancer-causing fungus consumed by animals through substandard fodder.

“Aflatoxins have been linked with liver cancer, a disease fast growing in the country,” he said, emphasising that UHT-treated/pasteurised milk killed all bacterial and other contaminants and milk’s shelf life was maintained through a cold chain.

The event was the PMA’s first programme of its awareness campaign on public health issues.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020