Extensive use of antibiotic in dairy sector is making milk unsafe for use: Survey

New Delhi (NVI): Antibiotics are extensively misused in the dairy sector and its residues remain largely untested in milk, which is an integral part of Indian diets, particularly of children, according to a recently published CSE survey report.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Wednesday organised an online meeting on antibiotic use in the dairy sector.

India is the world’s largest milk producer — it produced 188 million tonnes in 2018-19.

Urban areas consume 52 percent of it, and the unorganised sector, comprising milkmen and contractors, caters to 60 percent of this consumer base; the remaining demand is met by dairy cooperatives and private dairies which represent the organised sector.

Dairy farmers indiscriminately use antibiotics for diseases such as mastitis (infection / inflammation of the udder), a common ailment in dairy animals.

Often, these include critically important antibiotics for humans; the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that these antibiotics should be preserved in view of the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance.

“The abused antibiotics — despite a law against it — are easily available without the prescription of a registered veterinarian and stocked at farms. Farmers often inject animals based on their own judgment of signs and symptoms of a disease without any veterinary supervision,’’ noted the CSE in its report.

CSE Director General Sunita Narain said, “We are concerned. While we continue to struggle against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we are staring at another pandemic like situation — that of antibiotic resistance fueled by the way we are producing our food, which has become chemical-intensive.”

“Farmers often sell milk while the animal is under treatment, which increases the chances of antibiotic residues. While milk sold directly to consumers is not tested, contrary to what one would expect, processed milk sold in packets is also largely unchecked for antibiotic residues,” says Amit Khurana, programme director, food safety and toxins programme, CSE.

CSE has suggested a series of measures such as limiting misuse of antibiotics, particularly CIAs, and no-use of HPCIAs; modifying existing standards for antibiotic residues in milk accordingly; ensuring antibiotics are not available without prescription; and undertaking routine surveillance of antibiotic residues in milk.

The meeting was attended by a wide spectrum of experts and participants from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB); the World Health Organization (WHO), the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and representatives from specialised educational and research institutions, civil society bodies, and departments concerned from States.