By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

A long time ago I realized what McDonald’s and KFC had understood quite a while back; that, for an average person, the gratification of his tastebuds – if only for ten minutes- was more important than saving the world, being compassionate, stopping global warming or even looking after his own health. So I mentally gave up on trying to make everyone vegetarian – even though I point out the health hazards, week after week.

Thank God I saved my mind from despair. Instead of diminishing, FAO has estimated that the worldwide demand for meat will rise and rise – an increase of 76% by 2050. 76% more animals taking up 76% more space, more water, more grain, more dredging of an already overfished ocean, finding more species to eat – like insects. A world of pain and hunger, at the brink of destruction.

About 20 years ago Linda McCartney tried to change the world by inventing and promoting simulated meat by making plants taste like it. It had no effect.  It remained a charming curiosity and it was eaten by vegetarians who wanted to explore the world of meat. Even though companies, like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, have used biology to identify the molecules that give meats their flavours and textures ( eg. protein myoglobin, which gives meat its colour) and reproduced them exactly using non animals, this becomes just another dish on the table.

So nothing has excited me more in the last 5 years than the knowledge that real meat is being made by scientists and entrepreneurs without using animals.

The first disruption of the world, as we knew it, came with the computer, the email, all the artificial intelligence gadgets. I cannot even remember the world without the cell phone. This changing of the world was due to just a handful of dreamers who went on to become billionaires – though that was never their intention.

The second disruption will come with the replacing of animals for meat with Clean Meat. Meat made from the multiplication of meat cells in meat serum.

And, wonderfully enough, the giants of the First Disruption have invested their billions into creating this Second Disruption. Microsoft, Virgin, Google, Facebook… are some of the companies. And even more importantly, millions are being poured in by the largest Meat selling companies in the world, Tyson Foods and Cargill – who see this as an inevitable future and want to get in at the beginning.

Imagine a world without violence. A study done in America, on which were the most violent and unsafe areas in the county, showed that these were the kilometres around slaughterhouses. In India a survey done last month showed that the least liveable city in India is Rampur, the city of slaughterhouses and knives. Imagine a world without slaughterhouses, with no animals grown forcibly and killed viciously.

Imagine a world where animals are out of animal husbandry and yet there is meat for all. The answer is cultured meat. No waste, no disposal of offal, no sickening smells and terrifying screams, no overloaded trucks carrying dying animals, no calves being separated from their crying mothers, no mafia of butchers.

Imagine a world where you could eat all the meat you wanted without getting sick from all the diseases that the dead body carried, the antibiotics, the hormones.

Imagine blue skies and fresh breezes and no water shortage and plenty of forests to bring the rains on time. Imagine a world that was not heating up at this pace bringing drought and floods and tsunamis with it.

How far away is this dreamlike future? It is upon us: I will see it in my time. It is called the Clean Meat future.

In 2013 the first meatless burger was made (paid for by Google cofounder Sergey Brin). In 2018 hundreds of start up companies have been able to make this cellular multiplication, and companies like Memphis meats have been able to make varieties of duck and chicken that are the real thing. Now the only problem is of economics and scale. But that will also happen. After all, the first laptop probably cost a million dollars. As did the light bulb.

Why do I say that the future is upon us? Because the US Food and Drug Administration has decided to make rules and standards for companies growing meat in labs, not farm factories. No hooves, fins ,feathers. No anuses and eyes to throw away. Just edible meat. In Maryland in July 2018, the FDA  and Department of Agriculture convened the first public hearing to discuss the regulation of food grown. Hundreds of people attended .The World Bank has convened a meeting of Clean Meat entrepreneurs to explain their vision at a meeting of international economists at the headquarters of the World Bank.

When we used horses for transport, we didn’t love the horse. We simply wanted to get from one place to another quickly. And if we had to put up with feeding it and cleaning up the excrement and housing it, we resigned ourselves to doing it. But when the car came and manure and care was unnecessary, we switched quickly and horses are now kept for religious tourism. Likewise, no one loves the slaughterhouse, the bloodied rivers, the greenhouses gases, the huge environmental damage. But they want the mutton, beef, pork, chicken, milk and eggs.

While everything has changed, including the way in which we irrigate and grow plants, meat production today is the same as it was 20,000 years ago. How inefficient is the energy ratio: 11 kilos of grain has to be fed to get one kilo of meat. 60 ,000 litres of water is needed for one cow/buffalo. Thousands of people starve because there is no cheap grain. Every 7th kilo of meat in Europe is created from Indian grain. Look at our own levels of malnutrition and water shortage. There can be no humanity, no good governance, while we continue to eat and export meat. It is the largest way in which we affect the lives of our people. Cultured meat will change all that, freeing up grain and making it cheaper, making water available, making land available for the poorest . One company called BlueNalu has started cellular aquaculture and, once it comes on the market, you can have fish without formalin , human faeces and chemical dyes that make it look fresh. Modern Meadows is working on creating real leather without animal skin.

The tissue culture journey has been complicated. Finding the correct cells that multiply and are flexible. Creating appropriate bioreactors, which mimic the animal’s temperature, so that meat growing can become a village industry. But top scientists and cell biologists have left their well paying jobs and have applied their expertise. Many people involved are Indians. Memphis Meats is founded and headed by Dr Uma Valeti, a heart surgeon. The milk-without-cows of Perfect Day foods are both Indians, Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi.

Animals will not disappear. Cells will have to be collected from them and then put into a bioreactor. Nutrient culture serum will have to be collected. But they will be a small fraction of what they are now.

It is time the Indian government got into this. If the process is patented then it will not be economically viable. So we need to have open source research that makes the science available to all. Big marketers in India, like Future Foods, have already shown huge interest, and many American companies are in India looking for partners. But we need to have those Nehruvian “temples of science” under ICAR ( Indian Council of Agricultural Research) , CCMB (Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology) get off their hammocks, where they have been sleeping for many years, and actually do research that will change the face of the Indian economy.

I am going to be writing more on this. Watch this space. And imbibe my excitement!! 

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By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

I have just spent a week in monsoon washed Goa- without going to the beach.  The reason for this sacrilege? Jellyfish.

The Goa government has issued a warning to beachgoers that the beaches and coastal waters have swarms of live and dead jellyfish. These long tentacled gelatinous marine creatures are beautiful and deadly.

There are over 1200 known varieties of Jellyfish. They range from tiny ones, that you can ingest while swimming, to 200 kilos. The Blue Bottle and Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish, currently invading Indian coasts, have nematocysts on their long tentacles (going upto 10 feet) – microscopic barbed stinging structures, which can pierce human beings and inject venom. Dead jellyfish washed out onto the beach can do it as well, as nematocysts remain potent in moist conditions for months.

The victim may experience skin irritation, muscle cramps, headache, nausea, diarrhoea, fever. In extreme cases acute pain, breathing difficulty, heart attacks and even death. One is more likely to die from a jellyfish sting than a shark attack.

As the population of jellyfish spins out of control, beaches have become dangerous for humans. Every year, thousands of people are stung . The beaches of Mumbai, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh were a problem in the monsoon. Now there are invasions throughout the year. A bloom of jellyfish has been reported off the Visakhapatnam coast for the first time.

Australia and Southeast Asia have the dreaded box jellyfish, whose venom causes the heart to seize. In the Philippines 20-40 people die annually from box jellyfish stings.

The Irukandji is the size of a sugar cube and its stinger leaves no trace. Ten minutes after contact, victims suffer excruciating lower back pain, to incessant vomiting, to constricted airways, brain clots and heart failure. “It’s difficult to know how many victims the Irukandji have claimed,” writes biologist Tim Flannery “many deaths have been put down to stroke, heart attack or drowning.”

Some 150,000 people are now treated for jellyfish stings in the Mediterranean each summer.

Jellyfish don’t just sting, they have a huge economic and ecological impact. They are wreaking havoc all around the world by disrupting food chains, causing massive power plant outages, jeopardizing fisheries and tourism potential.

Jellyfish eat plant plankton and ichthyoplankton – the eggs and larvae of fish – as well as young fish, reducing fish populations. They can eat 10 times their body weight daily.       

In the 1980s, a severe outbreak of comb Jellyfish, brought from America  in the ballast water of foreign ships to the Black Sea, eliminated mackerel and anchovy fish, and collapsed the $350 million Black Sea fishing industry. The jellyfish preyed on anchovy fish eggs and larvae and consumed the same zooplankton that the anchovies ate. Soon the anchovy fishery crashed and the jellyfish bloomed. By 1993 it was 95 percent of the total biomass of the Black Sea.

Jellyfish now swarm all over. Fishermen nets in India are clogged with jellyfish. Estuaries in Kerala are often choked with heavy swarms. Fishing vessels, operating in the near shore waters, net huge quantities.

Nuclear and thermal power plants use coastal waters for cooling, and discharge the heated water back into the seas. This increases temperatures by 1 to 1.5°C  and affects waters for hundreds of miles. Jellyfish increase in heated waters. The atomic power station at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu suffered reduced production efficiency due to swarms of jellyfish clogging the sea water intake piping. On occasion, the plant has even been forced to stop production entirely. Similar stories have been reported from power plants in the USA, Sweden, China and Japan where clogging has caused emergency situations at nuclear power plants and resulted in major power cuts and economic damage to cities. Nuclear plants in Japan are regularly shut down by jellyfish. In 1999 half of the Philippines lost power. The Persian Gulf systems of desalination power plant and  liquid natural gas plant have been affected by blooms since 2000. Throngs of jellyfish have disrupted power generation everywhere from Muscat to Maryland, from South Korea to Scotland.

Jellyfish have been around for centuries. Why are we facing overpopulation now?

It is entirely our fault.

The human race has created conditions leading to an explosion of jellyfish blooms around the world.

The waste from farms and human settlements are thrown into waters that lead to the ocean. This leads to “eutrophication” (from the Greek eutrophos, "well-nourished") – nitrates and phosphates from sewage and fertilizers cause plants, such as algae and phytoplankton, to flourish to such an extent that the whole surface of the dam/river/ocean is covered. This thick green algae at the surface blocks sunlight from reaching aquatic plants and marine creatures, killing them. Oxygen levels drop as the algae take oxygen from the water, causing the death of fish and molluscs. The water is acidified. This environment suits jellyfish who thrive. While killing larger fish, eutrophication supports the survival of plankton, larval sardines and other organisms, which the Jellyfish feed on. The increase in jellyfish population has been found to match the increase in the occurrence of algal blooms in the coastal waters. Eutrophication reduces water clarity and light penetration. This benefits jellyfish. Fish are visual feeders, while jellyfish are non-visual; turbid water reduces feeding by fish, but doesn’t affect  jellyfish. Jellyfish need very little oxygen to survive. So, as other animals dwindle, jellyfish colonies expand.

Overfishing by humans has reached catastrophic levels and has led  to a situation where most of the natural predators of jellyfish, like sea turtles, salmon, mackerel, blue fin tuna, pilot whale and albatross, have become scarce. Jellyfish are eaten by 120 species of fish and 30 marine animals, including mushroom corals . Unfortunately these fish are commercially fished. Their competitors for plankton and small fish, such as billfish and dolphins, are also endangered. Sea turtles, particularly leatherbacks and loggerheads, are suffocating on plastic in the ocean.

So jellyfish get a free run of the ocean and its small fish and larvae.

Overfishing has also made enormous room for plankton to grow. Fish like anchovies, sardines and menhaden which are plankton eaters, are harvested for fish meal for aquaculture. Plankton is the jellyfish’s favourite food and now they have no competitor. By devouring huge quantities of plankton, jellyfish also deprive small fish species of food and they stop breeding. A particularly large Nomura's jellyfish takes in enough seawater each day to fill a swimming pool, gobbling up any plankton it catches in the process. Jellyfish wreak havoc on the entire food chain.

Without a curb on their population, growing hordes of jellyfish start eating the eggs of smaller fish, as well as their food supply. They then occupy the niche that was once filled by other species. In Namibia, catches of anchovy and sardines have reduced dramatically after 1988 and large populations of 2 jellyfishes now predominate.

Aquaculture is increasing the number of jellyfish. The captive fish are free food; from giant shrimps, killed in India’s captive breeding stations, to salmon and trout in Scotland, Ireland and Norway. When additional feed is provided, eutrophication of the waters takes place. The aquaculture structures, like rafts, provide shade for polyps to grow.

Studies show that jellyfish started increasing in the 1980s, but have increased far more dramatically in the last ten years.

Human structures built in the oceans have provided jellyfish with ideal places to reproduce. Jellyfish polyps need a solid structure to stick to in order to multiply, develop and ‘hatch’.  They have a variety of options to choose from – embankments, granite seawalls, docks, artificial reefs, floating plastic waste, ships, offshore oil rigs. Even packets of cigarettes, plates and statues of religious idols serve as breading grounds for polyps to stick and grow.

Jellyfish thrive on ecosystems in distress. Biologist Lisa-Ann Gershwin writes “As seas become stressed, the jellyfish are there, like an eagle to an injured lamb – more than just as symptom of weakness, more like the angel of death.”

We need to urgently change the way we treat our oceans and the beings in it.

First, eutrophication needs to be controlled by reducing the nutrients that we indiscriminately empty into the oceans. Waste needs to go through much more stringent treatment before it can be let out into the sea.

We need to immediately stop overfishing. The huge trawlers, which amass tonnes of fish in one catch and throw away 90% of them as waste need, to be stopped completely. The government should introduce quotes to control the amount of fishing. This will increase the number of predators that feed on jellyfish.

Our permanent interventions in the sea, such as ports, marinas, offshore rigs etc., need to be cleaned regularly so that jellyfish polyps cannot survive on them. In fact, this practice of building in the ocean itself should be discouraged.

I know these solutions seem long term, but unfortunately they are the only ones available. In any case it may be too late and we can’t do much to stop jellyfish from taking over the oceans.

From an evolutionary standpoint, Jellyfish are biologically primed to take over the sea. They reproduce on the sea floor, or any other hard surface, and breed in massive numbers (in thousands/day). These blooms are increasing in intensity, frequency, or duration, says Lucas Brotz, a jellyfish expert at the University of British Columbia. Brotz’s research of 45 marine ecosystems shows an increase of  62% in blooms since 1950.

Will the oceans of the future soon be filled with jellyfish? They are moving closer to becoming the dominant species in the seas, filling the niche of the disappearing fish.

Global temperatures are expected to rise 0.2°C during the next 2 decades. Warming of the oceans will increase jellyfish populations. As the climate changes the ocean currents change and blooms will crop up in new locations.

The current world human population is projected to increase 46% by 2050. Human influences and demands on the ocean will increase. Increased demands for energy will drive more dam and power plant construction, causing more sea warming in coastal waters. For example, China has 3 operative nuclear power stations and 4 are under construction. Increased fertilizer use, particularly in Asia, will cause eutrophication to double. Global aquaculture has doubled between 1997 and 2020, with especially large increases occurring in developing nations. More fishing, more coastal development. Therefore, more opportunities for  jellyfish, who are skilled at surviving in warm, polluted and acidified waters.

Our oceans’ ecosystem is almost at its end. A new ecological system is coming along, with jellyfish at the top of the food chain. Once this stabilizes, the removal of its dominance may prove difficult. Fish will almost disappear - even if we stop fishing . Jellyfish  will prevent the recovery of overfished populations, by eating their larvae.

Once jellyfish own the ocean, global warming will be even faster. Jellyfish promote climate change by releasing carbon-rich mucus and faecal matter. Marine bacteria uses this jellyfish to breed, which creates even more carbon dioxide and methane. “Climate change promotes jellyfish blooms, and jellyfish blooms promote climate change,” Gershwin, the author of “Stung”, explains, “and like all robust feedback loops, where it stops nobody knows.”

You will soon be eating jellyfish curry instead of fish. Scientists from eight countries have begun a project called GoJelly to create jellyfish-based products - water filters, fish feed, face cream, fertilizers, food, salt, alcohol and jellyfish ethanol for cars. 

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By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

A few months ago, a young woman went to her doctor in New York. Her toenails had gradually blackened over six months and fallen off. No one in her family had abnormal toenails and she had no diseases, no injuries, nor a family history of nail disorders. During the tests it was discovered that she had had a fish pedicure six months ago.  The fish had caused injury to the nail matrix, which is the nail growth centre. This led to a nasty case of onychomadesis, in which the nail plates that make up the toenail halt production and separate, causing her nails to fall off. The condition can cause deep grooves to run horizontally across the nails, or large gaps where there is no nail. The case has been reported in JAMA Dermatology.

This is not the only problem fish pedicures have caused.

Fish pedicures have transmitted Staphylococcus aureus and mycobacteriosis infections.

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium which is a common cause of infections, that range from minor skin infections, such as pimples, boils, cellutitis, folliculitis, carbuncles, and abscesses, to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, osteomvelitis, endocarditis, toxic shock syndrome, bacteremia, and sepsis. An estimated 20% to 30% of the human population are long-term carriers of S. aureus. It can cause skin and soft-tissue infections, particularly when the skin has been breached. It can spread through contact with pus from an infected wound, skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, and contact with objects used by an infected person.

S. aureus can lie dormant in the body for years. Once symptoms begin to show, if untreated, the disease can be deadly. Once the bacteria have entered the bloodstream, they can infect various organs. Without antibiotic treatment, S. aureus bacteremia has a fatality rate around 80%. With antibiotic treatment, case fatality rates range from 15% to 50% depending on the age and health of the patient – but the bacterium is now almost antibiotic resistant.

Mycobacteriosis is a chronic disease that occurs in fish reared under intensive conditions. Temperatures between 25 ̊C and 35 ̊C are ideal for the bacteria.

In the last decade there has been a steady increase in the frequency of Mycobacterium marinum infections in cultured fish, and human cases associated with fish aquaria have been seen all over the world. In fish, transmission can occur by consumption of contaminated feed, aquatic detritus, or entry via injuries, skin abrasions or external parasites. In humans, breaks in the skin serve as an entry point for the organism during contact with contaminated water sources, or infected fish and injury from fish fins or bites.

Mycobacteriosis infection most commonly manifests as a skin disease. Lesions tend to be noticed two to four weeks after exposure to the mycobacterium. The lesions swell and develop into ulcers which persist for months. In some instances, infection spreads to the lymph nodes. The skin, kidney, and liver are the main body parts affected in both fish and humans.

Diagnosis can be difficult and is often delayed, and by then the infection has spread, causing considerable damage to tendons and bone. Deep infections typically require both antibiotic and surgical treatment. Skin lesions can be chronic and leave scarring. Deep infections can lead to the loss of joint mobility, and severe cases may need  amputation.

I had written about the dangers of fish pedicures two years ago, but India has still got dozens of parlours offering the service. I have just returned from Goa where the main tourist areas have small shady shacks advertising fish pedicures.

During a fish pedicure, people immerse their feet in a tub of water that contains small fish called Garra rufa. These fish supposedly pull out dead skin from the customer’s feet, exfoliating them as the customer relaxes and enjoys the tickle.  These fish are specially grown in tanks and they are imported into India.

This is a typical case of “ aa bail mujhe maar” - inviting a problem when you have none.

These little fish are not doctors, cosmetologists or inanimate loofahs. They eat human flesh because they are starved of their normal diet, which is plankton or vegetable matter. The fish themselves are so mistreated by this unhealthy diet that outbreaks of systemic bacterial infections in the animals are common, causing abnormal eye protrusions and haemorrhaging around the gills, mouth, and abdomen.

They carry bacteria responsible for a variety of dangerous tissue infections and the tubs in which you put your feet are a fertile breeding ground. They excrete like all living beings, and this excreta is what you put your feet into. Government warnings across the world have warned people that fish pedicures may even cause Hepatitis C and HIV.

Since they are not cosmetic surgeons, their biting results in bumpy uneven skin, and some areas are bitten deep enough to draw blood. Their nibbling of human feet could spread harmful microbes from one spa guest's feet to the next. The hot water tub that you place your feet in is re-used, as are the fish and fungi, and disease-causing bacteria have been detected at fish pedicure spas. The mouths of the living fish cannot be cleaned or sterilized. The fish tanks are also not cleaned very often, or the water altered frequently enough. Obviously, all this increases the risk of spreading infection. These are the reasons that fish spas have been banned in many countries.

In 2011 and 2012, the Fish Health Directorate of Great Britain intercepted five different shipments of Garra rufa fish  from Indonesia, bound for U.K. spas, and tested them for bacteria. They found that all the fish carried a number of harmful bacteria, including Aeromonas spp, Vibrio vulnificus, Vibrio cholerae and Streptococcus agalactiae, which can cause skin and soft-tissue infections. The strains were resistant to most antimicrobial medications, including tetracycline,  gentamicin, neomycin and streptomycin. V. vulnificus can cause wound infections and primary septicaemia, resulting in high mortality rates, especially among persons with liver disease, diabetes, or impaired immune function. S. agalactiae is a common cause of skin and soft tissue infections, especially in older adults and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus .

The findings appear in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which has been monitoring health effects associated with fish pedicures. In 2014, researchers from Italy reported cases of customers developing foot infections caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium. Since then infections have been reported in Great Britain, according to the Health Protection Agency.

In the absence of any regulation in India, shady shops have sprung up online which sell garra rufa fish. No one knows how they have been able to import them . I saw an ad of a Mumbai shop, Pedifish, which sells “fish spa” fish at Rs 8, and Rs 40 for grarra rufa hybrids. They take orders of a minimum of 1000 “pieces” – which shows you how little they know, or care, about fish.

If you want to clean your feet use a pumice stone not a live fish.

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By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

In the last two months there has been a major crisis in Punjab -on the front page of every local paper. Paneer, the state dish, has disappeared from the market. For the uninitiated, Paneer is an un-aged, fresh, non-melting cheese made by curdling milk with a vegetable-derived acid, such as lemon juice/lactic acid/citric acid/tartaric acid/alum or sour whey. It is eaten all over North India (and, alas, has spread its tentacles into the south as well), but Punjab is its home and every house feels compelled to eat and serve it. Personally, I find it disgusting and I would rather starve than eat it – and I frequently do that when travelling in planes where vegetarians are only given the paneer option.

For years I have been cautioning people not to eat milk, or any of its products. Here is another reason why.

Because it is not paneer. Unless you make it in your own house and with milk that you have taken from trusted sources – since most milk is not milk.

Let’s start with the math and then the empirical evidence.

According to government data, India produces roughly 15 crore tonnes of milk annually. If all of it were only to be used to make paneer, India would produce 7 lakh tonnes. Obviously that is not possible, since only a small percentage of this is turned into paneer. But 5 lakh tonnes of paneer are sold annually. So where do they come from?

They come from an odious mixture of maida, palm oil, baking powder, old discarded skimmed milk, detergent, bicarbonate of soda and Suphuric Acid. The same sulfuric acid that is found in lead-acid batteries, metal cleaners, drain cleaners and anti-rust products. The same sulphuric acid that is thrown on women. This is boiled till it becomes a semi solid product. Then it is poured into vessels , flattened  and left for a few hours. Finally it is cut into 5 kg bricks of “paneer” and sold.  The residue is secretly drained into illegal bore wells within the premises, polluting underground water for miles around. On an average 5 kilos of “paneer” cost the maker Rs 30 or Rs 150 . This is sold for Rs 150-200 a kilo wholesale and Rs 300+ retail.

This is the modus operandi : the factory owners make the paneer in dirty shanties in industrial areas and sell the products to ghost “dairies” owned by themselves, or to “legitimate” dairies which have a few standing cows/buffaloes, and perhaps even extract some milk from them. The dairies then sell them to prominent sweetshops and bakeries. Most of the paneer factories work at night, dispatch the product at dawn and then  shut up for the rest of the day. In order to avoid being stopped at tolls, or be inspected, the paneer is often brought in the dicky of a car/SUV, instead of a tempo.

Just as the forest is cut with the active collusion of the forest department, the spurious food industry is run by food inspectors and the dairy department. Every now and then a Minister orders raids. Some people go to jail, the food item disappears, and then everything comes back to normal. According to the factory owners, the local health officer charged Rs 5000 a month on “principle” and Rs 10,000 – Rs 15,000 to clear each food sample from the lab. It is extraordinary that a small state like Punjab should have so many spurious factories. None of them are near dairies – which itself should have sounded a warning bell a long time ago. Most of them are in industrial areas, or in small villages. While dozens of people have been sent to jail, not a single health official has had any action taken against him.

Throughout August 2018, there has been a statewise  “crackdown” over a thousand spurious milk product/paneer factories in Punjab (out of many thousand). Chilling centres, creameries, milk establishments in remote areas, interception of tankers at  toll barriers : all these have revealed acids and illegal colouring agents. Even the dairies that were legitimately making paneer were found to be so unhygienic – unwashed workers, rusted implements – that the paneer is unsafe to eat.

Paneer has vanished in the market – which means most, or all, of it was spurious. Most sweetmeats made from it have vanished from the mithai shops. Shopkeepers and “dairy” owners have refused all bulk orders.

Here are some examples to show you how large this illegal industry is :

* The Mohali health department raided a paneer manufacturing unit in Ballomajra Village, Mohali. 20.6 quintals of spurious  paneer, 33 quintals of skimmed milk powder , sulphuric acid and other chemicals were found. The owner has been supplying this paneer daily to  restaurants and dhabas at Chandigarh, Pinjore, Kalka, Rajpura and Panchkula, and some local colonies. While the factory owners claimed that they made cheese, ghee, butter and other dairy products from 5,000 litres of milk collected daily from Lehragaga in Sangrur village, no dairy was found. The owner had no licence for any food product. The premises were filthy

* A raid by a joint team of the health department, food safety department, dairy development department and police, on two factories at Khokh Village, Nabha, Patiala, turned up 8 quintal spurious milk, 12 quintal fake paneer, skimmed milk and boxes of caustic soda.

*A raid at Gonsawal village, Amritsar has  led to the seizure of 58 bags of 25 kg each of skimmed low quality milk powder, 20 kg paneer and 30 kg adulterated milk.

*A raid on a dairy on Ram Tirath Road, Amritsar, found 74 bags of skimmed milk powder, 35 kg of paneer, and 150 of kg adulterated milk. 

* Paneer and khoya manufacturing units at Neem Wala Mor village in Barnala, Fatehgarh Sahib district's Chandila village, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, found huge quantities of fake paneer and khoya. Sweetshops in Mansa were found selling quintals of fake patisa made from this paneer.

* A food safety team raided paneer manufacturing units in Samrala and

Baghapurana, Ludhiana and found 3 quintals of spurious paneer, 90 litres of palm oil, 39 empty Palm oil tins of 15 litres each, and 17 bags of 25 kg each of skimmed milk powder.

* In Rajpura, Patiala district, a vehicle carrying 160 kg of fake paneer, coming from Narwana, in Jind district of Haryana, was intercepted by the food safety team. The vehicle was bound for a Dairy in Rajpura. The Narwana owner confessed that he sold spurious paneer at Rs 160 /kg to the dairy who further sold it.

* A raid in village Sangatpur Bhonki yielded 90 kg paneer, 1,400 kg milk, 18 empty bags of 25 kg Skimmed Milk Powder(SMP), 2 full bags of SMP were found.

* At Boor Majra, Ropar, 12 quintal  paneer were found. The hygiene conditions of the dairy were very poor and the dairy owners did not possess any licence.

* The Jalandhar Food Team intercepted a car delivering paneer to a sweetshop in Adampur. The car was carrying paneer in rear storage and on the back seat. While the paneer was being inspected the driver fled with the car .

* A vehicle carrying 300 kgs of spurious Khoya Burfi, Milk Cake, Ladoo, Patisa was intercepted at Jandiala Road, Tarntaran.

* The shop of a khoya barfi supplier at Jaito, Faridkot was inspected and 1.5 Quintals of spurious barfi and dhoda sweets were found.  The khoya burfi was brought from Fazilka and dhoda burfi from village Daria in Chandigarh and then resold to small shops.

* Checking and sampling at a sweetshop at Garhshankar revealed approximately 100 kg of adulterated khoya.

Is Punjab the only place where this is happening? Of course not. The entire country is awash with spurious paneer, and almost every week there is a report from some local TV channel or newspaper about an illegal factory.

Here are some samples in the last month:

* News 24: A Mahindra pickup was found with 120 kilos of spurious paneer going to Dehradun from Panipat. The bill of lading said it was plywood.

* Bansal News: a  raid in Morena, Madhya Pradesh delivered 1,500 kilos of fake paneer. The factory is in an industrial area, and filthy, cockroach ridden with paneer was being made and thrown on the floor. It has been raided several times. The owner hides out for a few days and then restarts the business.

* NNI:  A raid in a Mathura paneer factory shows dirty vats, dirty handlers, rusted implements. The place is full of milk powder and refined oil. The owner runs as soon as he sees the police. The paneer is supplied to Delhi.

* TOI Bangalore: Paneer made of urea and chemicals has flooded the market. 5 tonnes of adulterated paneer, brought from Dharmapur in Tamil Nadu, sent to the chemical lab for testing was reported to be full of chemicals and not fit for human consumption. Police said 100 tonnes of chemical paneer arrives in vans from Tamil Nadu every month. Salem milk/paneer is the common name for fake dairy products.

* Patna: Raids found that even posh hotels and big sweet shops were selling fake or adulterated paneer which contained corn starch mixed with chemicals, urea and maida. They buy at Rs 40-50 a kg and sell at Rs 300 a kg. A report by the food safety wing of the health department has revealed that 95% of the samples of paneer, collected from 60 shops and eateries in the city, have been found to be adulterated. Starch is added to cottage cheese to increase its quantity. When questioned, the team said that they only had the ability to look for starch adulteration as they were not competent to check for acids and chemicals in paneer, and their lab in Agamkuan was shut!!

How do you make out real from fake paneer? Pure paneer is soft in texture. Synthetic one is rubbery. Pure has a milky taste. Synthetic has a bland /no taste. Put a drop of iodine solution on raw paneer. If it changes colour to blue black it is spurious. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Meat is consumed on a massive scale across the world, with billions of animals killed every year. India is both, a large producer and consumer of meat and many other animal products. In fact, with 7.0 million tonnes of meat produced in 2015-16, India ranks 5th in the world. During this government’s tenure meat export has gone up by 25%, so we are probably 4th.  With regard to milk, we are at the number one position in the world, having produced 18.5% of the world’s milk in 2015-16.

Since we are producing so much meat, India has become a global centre for meat related products such as cheese, yoghurt, sausages, nuggets etc. While governments think this is a great economic success, it has major repercussions on the environment and public health. The environment repercussions are killing the whole planet – because the business of meat and milk causes global warming. In the meantime, the public health risk, from the large scale production of animal products, is so great that we will probably all look forward to the deaths caused by global warming. Famine, cyclones, tornadoes, tsunamis, lack of water, will probably come as a relief.

Let’s start from the beginning. When the consumption of meat and milk was much less, it was a cottage industry. Village herders kept small groups of animals, drove them into grazing areas (and the forest) and then killed them locally. Now, at this scale of millions of tonnes, meat and milk obviously comes from animals which are being bred industrially. These breeders are not traditional farmers or small scale enterprises that one would imagine. These are massive corporations who have set up shop in almost every part of our country. More and more local producers are either being bought out, or are adopting, the western industrial method of animal production. Most of our meat exporters are in partnership with Middle Eastern or Chinese corporations – either openly or covertly.

The production of meat is increasing every year. In India, the export of beef alone has gone from 0.31 million tons in 1999-2001 to 1.56 million tonnes in 2016. This figure is expected to increase steadily with India, climbing from the position of third largest beef exporter in the world to number one. Government statistics show that the production of pork in India has also increased by 21% between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

As the cattle farming industry grows every year, the techniques to extract the largest possible profit are also becoming more sophisticated. This system follows the basic format of more animals, faster growth and shorter meat-to-market time. Large numbers of animals are bred in one facility, where they are fed grains and pumped with growth promoters before being slaughtered for meat.

This is where the concept of ‘feed conversion efficiency’ (FCE) comes in. This is the amount of input needed to produce a unit of meat. A simple economic logic of input and output – devoid of consideration for either the animal or the consumer.

Based on this logic, cattle farms use a variety of hormones on their animals so that they can grow bigger faster and provide the most possible profit in the least possible time. These hormones are usually of two types – ‘classic’ steroid sex hormones such as oestradiol-17β, testosterone and progesterone, or synthetic hormones. These hormones are either administered to animals orally, or through the use of external implants on their bodies. All this is done with no thought of what will happen to the health of the consumer.

In the 1950s, hormone usage in cattle started gaining popularity in the USA and UK, with DES (diethylstilboestrol) and hexoestrol being administered to cattle. Meat traders realized that these hormones resulted in 10-15% increase in their weight, improvements in feed conversion efficiency (FCE) – meaning, they could feed them less and still get the same weight, and so hormone additions became common very rapidly. India adopted these practices without even looking at the ramifications on the health of people eating this hormone-drenched meat.

Today, a common hormone in use is melengestrol acetate (MGA). This is a type of progesterone that is used as an animal feed additive to improve FCE, increase weight, and suppress oestrus (menstruation) in beef heifers. Research conducted by TJ Smith and KE Nachman, from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future at the John Hopkins University in USA, has shown that rats fed MGA have shown mammary and endometrial hyperplasia – signs of cancer. Today, gynaecologists will tell you that thousands of young girls in India have endometriosis and cysts in their ovaries. Where did these problems come from? Other observational studies of MGA’s effect on wildcats have also shown mammary carcinogenicity. Despite these findings, MGA continues to be used.

Another popular hormone used by the cattle industry is Zeranol, a synthetic non-steroidal oestrogen. It is approved for use as a growth promoter in livestock in the USA and Canada, but is banned in the European Union. Zeranol is known to increase cancer cell proliferation in already existing breast cancer. Consumption of meat coming from Zeranol-implanted cattle is considered a risk factor for breast cancer.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic non-steroidal oestrogen still commonly used as a growth promoter in cattle. However, various reports suggest that it has mutagenic, carcinogenic and teratogenic properties. A teratogen is any agent that can disturb the development of an embryo or foetus. Teratogens may cause a birth defect in the child, or even halt the pregnancy outright. It was banned as a growth stimulant for food producing animals in the USA in 1979, and in 1981 in the EU. It is used in India.

Trenbolone acetate (TBA) is another synthetic steroid used to increase the weight and FCE of animals for food. It is either administered alone, or in combination with oestrogen and other chemicals. It has been shown to improve the FCE in castrated cattle by over 25%. Some TBA is converted into 17beta-trenbolone, which has been shown to induce prostate cancer cell proliferation.

These hormones, and others, when administered to animals, stay in their tissues for an extended period of time. Humans then consume these animal tissues as meat, also consuming all these hormones.

You may not want to believe this – and most meat eaters would rather die than stop eating it - but this is the truth of most meat production in our country and the world. The priorities of meat corporations is unambiguous: money comes first.

There are better and safer alternatives to increasing the profit returns in animal factories. Feeding animals well, and keeping them healthy, will improve their weight naturally. However, this brings the profits down and will not show the quick and cheap results as hormones can.

If the companies do not want to adopt better methods, it is our job to make sure that they are forced to do so. The industry is demand-driven by you, so if people show their unwillingness to eat hormone treated meat, the producers will be forced to stop this practice.

This is what happened in the EU, and this is what can happen in India, if people are aware and active enough. In the meantime, start putting pressure on that useless government regulator – the FSSAI.

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,