By Kamila Hyat, Correspondent Gulf News
Lahore: Milk is in many ways integral to the culture of the Punjab, and especially its capital city of Lahore.
In the past, every family that could afford to do so kept a buffalo in its backyard and a ‘keeper’ to milk it each day. Even today, there are some who defy the ban on keeping cattle within city limits. Insisting they cannot manage without regular supplies of fresh, home-produced milk.
“The tea just doesn’t taste the same unless the milk is good. My family has always kept a buffalo and we continue to do so now,” said Zahida Begum, 60.
Her grandchildren take turns to feed and help bathe the jet black animal, known as ‘Moti’ or ‘Pearl’.
But lately there has been growing concern over the quality of milk available in Lahore. The Lahore High Court has now taken up a case in which the petitioner has claimed over 80 per cent of the milk supplied to the city is contaminated.
The court has ordered the testing of packaged milk and the variety sold by traditional sellers who ladle it out from metal urns into household utensils.
In the petition, the petitioner has said various substances are regularly added to the milk included urea (a fertiliser) or melamine, a chemical toxin.
The purpose is to make the milk look thicker and richer. Other compounds added to milk include unhygienic water, to increase quantity and therefore profit and chemicals that act to preserve it and disguise ‘bad’ milk.
“It is actually a huge issue for us. We want clean, good milk but it is hard to find,” Karim Khan, who describes himself as a ‘milk lover’, said guzzling it down even at office in preference to the more usual beverages of tea or coffee.However, Fazal Sohail, who owns a shop selling firni (rice and milk pudding) insists that “those who know milk can still buy the best”.
He insists he personally checks the milk used at his shop, in order to keep up the quality of the items they supply customers.
The consumption of milk, served cold with sherbet added to it, or as lassi, will as always, go up with the advent of summer.
Consumers hope that the court ruling can offer them more certainty about the quality of the milk they drink and set in place safety standards.
The debate over this issue has grown with milk packed in plastic or cardboard cartons used more and more widely. The court has been told by the government food lab that it has no means to check the quality of this milk.
This disclosure represents some of the issues faced by consumers, who will be hoping for a ruling that addresses their key concerns.