How is Ghee being adulterated ?


Maneka Gandhi


(Bihar Times) Some years ago it was discovered that owners of Vanaspathi oils were putting cow and pig lard into the oil. There was a furore which died down after a few months and no one knows till today what happened to the Jains who owned the enterprise – but I have little doubt that they got off and a few bureaucrats and policemen are richer.

Ghee (from Sanskrit ghṛta meaning "sprinkled") is clarified butter, sacred to the gods .On June 13, a ghee manufacturing unit was raided  by the health officers and police of Agra . Hundreds of tins of ghee were found in the Jharna nullah locality . The so called ghee was being manufactured from animal fat boiled in huge iron pans.  “ 25 big drums, 150 tins and four furnaces, knives and country pistols were recovered from the site ” a police official said.“Animal hides of cows, monkeys, donkeys, horses and dogs  hanging by the trees and bones littered showed the scale of manufacturing being carried out clandestinely for  years,”

Now comes the standard Indian part – “ Police said at least 50 people must have been working there in the sheds but none could be caught, probably because the information about the raid was leaked to them.”
Agra Municipal corporation’s animal husbandry department Chief B.S. Verma said that residents of the locality had  complained FOR YEARS about the spurious manufacturing unit but the department could not FIND the unit !!! ( However, he added, they did find a shop selling fake branded ceiling fans).

Before this , on June 7th a raid on the 10 acre farm of a BSP legislator in the Etmadpur area in Agra revealed large-scale extraction of animal fat from dead bodies of cattle, monkeys and pigs destined for the ghee market. For ten days after the raid , nothing was done. On June 27th the city shut down to protest inaction against the owner of this unit . Predictably an enquiry has been ordered.

TV channels aired footage filmed at ghee manufacturing plants. The footage confirmed that , across India , animals were being rendered and their fat added to ghee. The ghee plants had dead animals all around, animal fat boiling in big drums and slabs of fat hanging from the ceilings.

Members of the Hare Rama Hare Krishna sect collected samples of commercial ghee in Pune and sent them to be tested at the Anatech Laboratory and research centre in Bangalore. The tests based on the Fancier-Transbraned Infra -red spectrum Replication showed beyond a doubt that the ghee contained animal fat.  This laboratory which has analyzed hundreds of ghees said that, of all the brands in India Amul was the best brand for ghee and butter , with even Nestle adulterated with about 5% vegetable oil fats. They said that most ghee, including Amul,  was a mixture of cow and buffalo milk 

Unfortunately most labs in India do not have the equipment to test. They can simply say that the ghee is adulterated . Why is ghee being adulterated ? Firstly , because there is no milk. India prides itself on being the world’s largest producer of leather so all the cows are being killed off rapidly to service the hundreds of leather units in Chennai, Kanpur and Kolkata – which kill lakhs of cows and calves. Recent raids have found that only 30% of the “milk”  we drink , is milk. The rest is a mixture of soap, urea, earthworm fat, oil and whiteners. So if there is no milk, how does one get the ghee ? 450,000 tonnes of ghee are supposedly made every year, 80% of which is eaten and the rest offered to the gods in rituals that include marriage and death. This is an impossible figure – the actual ghee would be less than a quarter.

The second reason is that milk products like ghee only have a 5% profit margin so the only way to be profitable is to use animal fat.

If you insist on ghee make your own. Boil milk . Keep taking the cream off . When the cream is cold, take a wooden stick and churn it . The water separates and the rest becomes unsalted butter. Melt the butter over low heat gradually in a heavy-bottomed pot. Do not stir. Cook until it is a clear golden liquid. It may bubble and foam may form on top which you’ll need to skim off and discard. Remove from heat while the liquid is a clear gold. Any darker and it’s overcooked. Take a large sieve and line it with 4 sheets of cheesecloth or muslin . Place it over a clean dry pot. While still hot, carefully strain the ghee through the cheesecloth-lined sieve into the pot. Transfer the strained ghee carefully into a clean glass jar and shut tightly. Ghee at room temperature looks semi-solid. Ghee can be stored for extended periods without refrigeration, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.  Always use a clean utensil to scoop out ghee .
The detection of animal body fat in ghee is difficult as the mixture has more or less the same physical and chemical characteristics as pure ghee. To make matters more complicated ghee obtained from the milk of buffaloes ( which all, including Amul, use) who have been fed cotton seeds have the same characteristics as ghee adulterated with meat. The government uses the Reichert-Meissel value, the Polenske value and the Butyro refractormeter index but these are of little use because they have far too many variations in the results. According to the Handbook of Food Quality and Authenticity by Rekha Singhal , Pushpa Kulkarni and Dinanath Rege, many methods have been tried  : mixing ghee with ascetic acid And ethanol to get a precipitate which indicates adulteration ( this fails as the solvents have to be varied constantly); measuring the butyric acid ( this cannot detect animal fat at below 10%); using heat to dissolve the ghee as butter dissolves at 49-53 degrees centigrade and meat at 70-73 ( however the temperatures vary hugely); using ultraviolet spectrophotometry: Adulterants show up blue while pure ghee is pale green. Unfortunately cotton seed ghee is also blue. However colour tests work only when the meat adulterant is over 15%.
So far the best test of pork and beef content in ghee  is analyzing the triglyceride content . There is a Bomer value 
63-64 for cow and buffaloe ghee
66-68 for cotton seed ghee
Buffalo, sheep, goat and pig go to 69 to 76. So if their fat is added , the Bomer values of the milk ghee can go from 69-71
However a simple observation of the ghee sample can show you adulteration. Any ghee would be uniformly homogenous, and not half semi-solid and the other bottom half fully caked hard. This most likely contains about 15% animal fat .

Is ghee good for you ? No. Ghee is 100% fat (about 14 grams per tablespoon).  All tests show that eating ghee regularly can do you nothing but damage. To quote just one example: Researching children who had been fed ghee during infancy, researchers in King Saud University, Saudi Arabia have found chronic chest infections that failed to respond to antimicrobial therapy. Ghee itself is simply a form of the cow’s blood into milk. But now to have dog , horse, donkey ,monkey ,pig and the cow’s own meat added to it makes it doubly awful.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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