KENYA – The Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) has reported that more than 70 percent of between 100,000 liters and 200,000 liters of raw milk transported to Nairobi daily is locally ‘treated’ with hydrogen peroxide for preservation.

According to the Board, unregulated use of the chemical can enhance the development of throat cancer.

Delia Grace, a food safety expert at Nairobi’s International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says hydrogen peroxide is not wholly hazardous when used in small doses.

In reality, due to its disinfectant and bleaching qualities, it is industrially used in the preservation of milk and the manufacture of toothpaste.

“There are minor concerns over known negative health effects of consumption of moderate amounts of hydrogen peroxide, but these are much higher than would be present in milk.”

“The main concern is that it might be used to stabilize deteriorating milk which is not of good quality, allowing for marketing and sale of sub-standard produce,” said Grace, who leads ILRI’s Food Safety and Zoonoses program.

In March 2016, 11 people were charged in a Limuru court with transporting milk laced with hydrogen peroxide.

FAO on milk handling

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the quest to extend milk’s shelf life begins far before the milking process itself.

Molds, fungi, bacteria, and other pathogens would be significantly decreased by cleaning the udder with lukewarm water and cleaning individual drying towels. The stockman must also uphold stringent personal hygiene rules.

FAO notes that milking equipment must be spotless and, ideally, smooth and rivet-free.

The likelihood of microbes being present is highest on rough and riveted surfaces and cannot be removed by washing the machinery.

The milk spoils before it reaches the market as a result of elevated contamination and regular ambient temperatures.

In as much as the micro-organisms may not be eliminated completely, hygiene can keep them at about 50,000 per milliliter, which is not risky, FAO says.

Regular hygiene practices and diagnostics for mastitis and other cow illnesses would help lower the number of germs in milk.

Water used to clean the udder can be treated with disinfectants such as sodium hypochlorite at 300 ppm.

Infestations of microorganisms in the milking containers could be prevented by routinely sterilizing milking equipment and drying it in the sun.

The Kenya Dairy Board and police recently conducted a sting operation where they discovered the suppliers putting milk in 20-liter plastic jerry cans.

“Non-food grade plastic can contain heavy metals or chemicals above levels considered safe. It can also be unsuitable for storing food because it is thin or weak and prone to rupture or breach by pests or because it can be easily scratched, and the scratches are difficult to clean,” said Grace.

Glass containers are preferable for domestic storage whereas aluminum gallon containers are preferred for milk transportation.

According to ILRI, cooling is still the greatest method for keeping raw milk safe before processing because low temperatures of less than 4 degrees Celsius are the most desired to stop microbial activity.

Fresh milk can be cooled in a water bath at home.

According to the Institute’s Director Steve Staal, FAO collaborated with other organizations to create Lactoperoxidase treatment.

Lactoperoxidase is an effective antimicrobial agent and is used as an antibacterial agent in reducing bacterial microflora in milk and milk products. 

The Lactoperoxidase system is activated by adding hydrogen peroxide and thiocyanate, which increases the shelf life of refrigerated raw milk.

However, it is unclear whether the enzyme has received official approval. As such, it is not currently in use in the country, reports FarmBiz Africa.

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