Why is Urea Added to Milk? Exploring the Concerns and Detection Methods

Milk, a highly nutritious dairy product, holds a significant place in our daily lives. However, due to its perishable nature, milk is prone to adulteration. Adulterants such as urea pose major health concerns, particularly for vulnerable groups like pregnant women, children, and the elderly.

Milk is a complex liquid containing proteins, fats, water, lactose, enzymes, vitamins, phospholipids, and gases. Its nutritional properties make it an essential component of regular diets across all age groups. Unfortunately, the demand for milk has led to common instances of adulteration. One prevalent practice involves adding urea to milk to artificially increase the milk solids-not-fat (SNF) percentage, thereby fetching a higher price. It’s worth noting that milk is priced based on both the fat percentage and SNF percentage.

Food adulteration is a serious issue faced by the population, and this problem is particularly prevalent in India, where traders commonly engage in adulterating food products. Such adulteration poses significant threats to human health.

The National Survey on Milk Adulteration (2011) conducted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) revealed that water is the most common adulterant found in milk in both rural and urban areas across different states. The addition of water dilutes the milk, resulting in a decrease in specific gravity. To maintain the desired specific gravity, urea is added to the milk, increasing its SNF value and giving it a concentrated and rich appearance. By adjusting the urea concentration based on the amount of water added, the fabricated milk’s specific gravity matches that of natural milk, making it difficult to detect any difference using a lactometer.

The addition of urea serves multiple purposes, including providing whiteness, increasing the thickness of milk, and adjusting the SNF content to resemble that of natural milk. However, the presence of urea in milk negatively affects the kidneys as they have to filter out higher levels of urea from the body.

Dairies employ various equipment, such as the Eco-milk analyzer, to measure parameters like fat, SNF, added water, proteins, freezing point, and density. However, detecting urea adulteration requires chemical methods in a laboratory setting.

In conclusion, the adulteration of milk with urea poses significant health risks to consumers. To ensure the safety and integrity of milk products, it is crucial to remain vigilant and employ effective detection methods. By promoting awareness and implementing stringent measures, we can safeguard public health and combat the pervasive issue of milk adulteration.