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27 October, 2007

Health Tips-19: "Beware of Synthetic Milk"

Milk is a staple food for the children and the infirm. Of late, there are reports that a synthetic product is passed off as 'milk'. The 'synthetic milk' simulates the creamer or dairy whitener added to tea or coffee for persons to whom milk is contra-indicated for allergic or other reasons. Dairy whitener is composed of fat (commonly hydrogenated fat or derivative of palm oil) and emulsifier (synthetic or natural). Emulsified fat in water is milky. Soaps and detergents are capable of emulsifying oil or fat in water. The mixture becomes an oil-in-water emulsion. The synthetic emulsifier used in creamer is approved for food purposes. Soaps and synthetic detergents are not of food grade. Detergents are made up of petroleum jelly. The 'synthetic milk' sold is an emulsion of an oil in water with the aid of soaps or detergents, thickened by addition of urea. True milk contains protein (casein), sugars (lactose) and minerals (calcium). Urea, though a nitrogenous compound is not protein, neither it is edible. In fact, it could be toxic. Urea is a product of protein metabolism in animals and is excreted in urine. Synthetic milk can be easily detected. First of all, soap or detergent in water is alkaline due to hydrolysis. A litmus (red to blue) or pH paper (orange to green) test will indicate this behaviour when the strip is dipped in the liquid. Urea is detected by adding an ureas tablet into a sample of milk. Ureas is an enzyme, which decomposes into ammonium carbonate, which may be identified by its characteristic ammoniacal smell or alkaline nature by pH indicator. These qualitative tests are fairly simple and can be performed even by an untrained person.

- From a 'Letter to the Editor, from N.J.M.Yadav, Thanjavur (Name of Newspaper not given)

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