Local milk sold in Thimphu and Paro was found adulterated and mixed with water, according to an agriculture ministry’s study.
The analysis of its composition revealed variation in milk components and consistent adulteration with water.
Officials of the National Dairy Research and Development centre in Yusipang, Phuntsho T Norbu, Kinlay Choki and Sonam Yangchen conducted the study last year. It was published in the Bhutan Journal of Animal Science’s recent issue.
Although the normal milk consists of fat within 3-6 percent, the milk showed measurements below three percent, which is considered lower than reference milk fat content of 4.7 percent.
Considering that the dzongkhags have high breed animals to produce high-fat milk with an average fat content of 3.72, the study concluded that either the producers or retail outlets were practising skimming of milk for cream and butter for commercial purposes.
Researchers also found irregular protein content. The majority of the samples had low protein content below the average value of 3.4 percent.
Similarly, other minor components like lactose were found to be lower than the reference value.
The study concluded that the adulteration with water caused variations in the milk components, reduced nutritional value of the milk, and increased the risk of introducing microbes through the use of unsafe adulterant.
“Further study is required to identify the source of adulteration for corrective action,” the study states.
The packaging was also a cause of concern. The milk procured for the study was packaged in recycled plastic mineral water bottles. All samples in Paro had the distinctive odour of areca and an unknown odour due to simultaneous handling of the products.
One sample was found to be tainted due to improper washing of the reused bottle. “Such practices increased the risk of potential sources of contamination and should be discouraged,” the study recommended.
Lack of systemic monitoring had encouraged such practices, therefore, putting the lives of consumers at risk, the report stated.
On average, solid components in milk—fats, proteins, lactose, and minerals—constitute 13.4 percent and 86.6 percent water.
The milk samples were analysed using the Lactosan MCCW and portable milk analyser. The lactose MCCW has higher precision for detecting added water.