After fish traders, it is the turn of milk traders to realize that they have no escape from responsibility towards consumers. Much like the fish traders, the milk traders that supply milk to Goan consumers have never bothered about the risks their products pose to consumer health owing to their gross violation of the regulation and norms about the preservation and transportation of their food products. Much like the fish traders, the milk traders, except for a few, have never used refrigerated and insulated trucks for transportation and distribution of their milk to Goan consumers.
Milk is a highly perishable food product which has to be properly pre-cooled before being loaded into trucks, because the refrigeration in trucks generally has a capacity only enough to maintain the temperature. More care has to be taken if various kinds of products are being transported in the same truck, because the products might require different temperatures for preventing them from getting spoilt. The distance and transportation time between the production area and the consumption area also matters. If it takes longer, the milk might get spoilt.
As the larger volume of milk that is consumed by Goans does not come in refrigerated and insulated trucks, the chances of it getting contaminated are quite high. If the truck is carrying other food and non-food cargo with the milk, the chances of contamination are higher. The usual commercial vehicles do not even have separate compartments for separate goods. If milk is transported with non-food items, the chances of external contamination are high, especially because the packages might move and mix owing to bad road conditions and rough driving. The trucks and vans that carry milk into Goa from Karnataka and Maharashtra are not kept in good repair, nor are they scrupulously cleaned. In the absence of effective cleaning and disinfection, the room for contamination of milk is large.
Maintaining a cold chain is crucial to food safety – whether it is milk, dairy products such as butter and cheese, fish, vegetables or fruits. Food traders are legally responsible for ensuring compliance with food safety laws. However, the traders importing milk to Goa, much like fish traders, have gone on for decades without caring the slightest bit for food safety laws and standards. They have only been concerned about their margins, giving their accountability to the consumers who help them get good margins a go-by. Right from the points of collection to places of storage to transportation, distribution and consumption, their supply chain works without any regard to food safety standards. It is the primary responsibility of the milk suppliers in other states and the milk wholesalers in Goa to transport milk in refrigerated trailers, trucks, tankers and vans. They know it very well that if the milk is not kept under a certain cool temperature it can become contaminated with sources of microbes. If it becomes host to dangerous bacteria its consumption could make consumers ill.
Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has taken a very tough stand vis-à-vis fish import. He is not going to allow any fish trucks to enter Goa unless the fish traders comply with all the food safety standards laws and norms. More than half of the fish imports to Goa are meant for exports. The fish exporting companies of Goa have agreed to get their fish in refrigerated and insulated trucks. Sooner or later, the fish traders who get fish from other states for domestic markets will also have no option but to get their consignments in refrigerated and insulated trucks. The consumers of Goa have been largely boycotting fish from other states for the fear of them being contaminated.
A similar boycott of milk coming in unrefrigerated and non-insulated trucks is very likely if the milk suppliers and milk importers do not follow the food safety norms. The Health Minister must order a ban on entry of milk trucks to Goa as he did of the fish trucks. He must compel the milk suppliers and milk importers to supply to retailers only such milk as has been kept under temperature control right through the process of collection, storage, transportation, distribution and consumption. The milk traders, like the fish traders, have never suffered the severe penalties they deserved for putting the health of the Goan consumers at serious risk. Milk is consumed by children and infants. If the milk supplied has dangerous bacteria, it affects children and infants too, much as it does adults. On the one hand, the health department runs programmes for making infant and children healthy, but on the other it lets milk traders feed them unsafe milk. Vishwajit Rane must stop this.