International Standards for global trade for all foods including milk products come under the purview of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) of the WHO, who in turn appointed International Dairy Federation (IDF) as it Advisor for draft standards on milk and milk products.
In 1995, Dr. Kurien appointed me as the Secretary of the Indian National Committee of the International Federation. Soon thereafter, NDDB received a bunch of draft international standards from the IDF on behalf of the CAC.
One of the draft standards stated all milk products for the international trade should be made from cow milk only.
This draft had us seeking with anger.
I immediately showed it to Dr. Kurien and Dr. Amrita Patel. Dr. Kurien got furious and said “Chawla – fight it out until we win the battle”
Dr. Aneja had earlier that year warned us that something was being plotted at the IDF as he was shocked to note that India’s fast increasing production of Buffalo Milk was mentioned as one of the threats to the World Dairy Industry. Though Dr. Aneja had strongly argued, some powerful milk producing countries wished to proceed ahead with their hidden agenda.
Since 1995, whosoever attended IDF meetings from the NDDB argued that buffalo milk was as good as cow milk for the international trade but without any success.
In the meantime, the concerned draft standard moved from first stage to final draft for consideration by the Sub-committee of the IDF( which was a proxy for CAC of the WHO.
For NDDB, it was no longer a battle but a war.
Not only buffalo milk producing countries, but other countries who were producing milk from any other mammal such as goats, sheep, goats, camels, etc., were also likely to get affected by the proposed standard.
NDDB itself had a reservoir of technical information on technological developments of buffalo milk for manufacture of milk products such as milk powder, butter, various types of cheeses, condensed milk, etc.
Both Dr. Aneja and Dr. Punjrath had done considerable product development work on this subject. Research papers from NDRI Karnal were also procured. Bandopadhya and Ravindra Kumar young scientists from our Research and Development Division assisted me in making our final presentation
In International forums like IDF, only proposals supported by majority of delegates only are accepted for consideration.
We therefore, worked out a strategy and made friends with the delegations from France, Switzerland, China, Iran, Iraq, South Africa, USA, Canada, etc., who were either likely to get affected by the proposed IDF standard or who wanted India’s support for some of their issues before the next IDF meeting in Iceland. We also developed extremely cordial relations with the President, IDF and requested him to allot some time to India for making a presentation on this issue at the next IDF meeting. Our request for a presentation was ageed to.
I made a very comprehensive power point presentation highlighting technological developments on buffalo milk for use in the manufacture of various milk products including all varieties of cheeses such as Cheddar, Gouda, Emental, etc., which were originally made from cows milk. I presented acid profile of buffalo milk versus Holstein Friesian and Jersey cows milk. I said if you look at acid profile, Jersey cows are closer to buffalo than Holstein Friesian. Would you therefore, leave out Jersey cows and restrict milk products made only from a particular breed.
I further pointed out that even the definition of milk by IDF of states ‘milk is excretion from the mammary glands of all the domesticated mammals., arguing therefore that how can there be a discriminate against milk from buffalo, goats, sheep, camels, etc., as indicated in the proposed standard.
As soon as my presentation ended some ten countries supported India’s proposal. No country stood up to oppose India’s proposal.
We enquired from the Chairman if India’s proposal is accepted by the Committee. He said “NO”as this Committee is not competent to take a decision on this matter.
We not only staged a walk out but also stated that until discrimination continues India would boycott all future meetings of the IDF. Immediately Chairman of the Committee reported the matter to the President, IDF.
This was followed by a meeting called by the President where Chairman of the Committee for Milk Products and I were present.
It was agreed that India’s proposal would be discussed at the Sub-committee for Milk Products where India would be invited as India was at present not a member of the Sub-committee. This meeting was convened shortly thereafter and India’s proposal was finally accepted at this Sub-committee after a long drawn battle of 4 years.
Contributed by Shri NK Chawla former Executive Director NDDB