For the better part of last year, we carried out several researches among dairy farmers in different parts of the country.
And one of the things we observed throughout the studies, though it was not one of our objectives, was that the use of plastic containers in storing milk is still rife.
On many farms, we saw small-holder farmers milking their animals and then store the milk in plastic cans before heading to the market or bulking centres.
Farmers said they favoured the containers because they were readily recyclable, cheaper and do not spill milk during transportation.
For practical lessons, we gathered a small group of farmers just after delivering milk to illustrate to them how use of plastic containers is dangerous.
After formal introductions, the farmers laughed off sarcastically, adding that they have been using plastics ever since and our arguments were just illusions.
One farmer even offered us her container, a 20-litre black jerry can, saying, “It’s very clean, I wash it every day.”
We checked together the container and what they all saw was a hard sticky dirt on the walls of the container. The dirt was not easily visible or even removable with hot water.
Not known to many, the use of plastic containers is the cause of high post-harvest losses and health risks.
To begin with, plastic cans are prone to microbial contamination because their surfaces are easily scratched when cleaning.
USE STAINLESS STEEL CONTAINERS
The scratched surfaces, after sometime, provide hiding ground for pathogenic bacteria. The bacteria multiply and get into contact with milk causing contamination and later spoilage.
This mainly happens when milk collectors delay picking the produce. Some farmers, however, have blamed their ‘fruitless’ cows for giving them poor quality milk.
Further, milk dries almost clear, making it difficult to spot dirt in the unreachable parts or corners of the plastic containers.
This, therefore, makes the cans smelly, besides posing threats to consumers.
Kenya Dairy Board has consistently waged war against informal sector milk hawkers and traders, but it has not yet warn the war.
Dairy cooperative societies are also doing a lot to curb the vice, besides instantly rejecting milk supplied in containers, they hire experts to train their suppliers on the milk handling systems.
Always use stainless steel, the recommended material for storing milk. The cans are easier to clean, are more durable and do not hold pathogens.
If you must go plastic, use certified models of food grade plastic churns introduced in the market.
They are uniquely designed to ensure greater protection during handling and transport operations, guaranteeing convenience, maximum durability and hygiene.
Opinya is based at Animal Health Department, Egerton University.