By David Derbyshire
It’s not all white: The cocktail of up to 20 chemicals in a glass of milk
A glass of milk can contain a cocktail of up to 20 painkillers, antibiotics and growth hormones, scientists have shown.
The doses of drugs were far too small to have an effect on anyone drinking them, but the results highlight how man-made chemicals are now found throughout the food chain.
the highest quantities of medicines were found in cow’s milk.
Researchers believe some of the drugs and growth promoters were given to the cattle, or got into milk through cattle feed or contamination on the farm.
Their breakdown, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, revealed that cow’s milk contained traces of anti-inflammatory drugs niflumic acid, mefenamic acid and ketoprofen – commonly used as painkillers in animals and people.
It also contained the hormone 17-beta-estradiol, a form of the sex hormone oestrogen. The hormone was detected at three millionths of a gram in every kilogram of milk, while the highest dose of niflumic acid was less than one millionth of a gram per kilogram of milk.
However, the scientists, led by Dr Evaristo Ballesteros, from the University of Jaen in Spain, say their technique could be used to check the safety of other types of food.
Dr Ballesteros said: ‘We believe the new methodology will help to provide a more effective way of determining the presence of these kinds of contaminants in milk or other products.
‘Food quality control laboratories could use this new tool to detect these drugs before they enter the food chain. This would raise consumers’ awareness and give them the knowledge that food is… harmless, pure, genuine, beneficial to health and free of toxic residues,’ he added.
Last year Portsmouth University scientists found that fish were being contaminated with the anti-depressant Prozac.
The drug enters rivers from the sewer system and tinkers with the brain chemistry of fish, the researchers claimed.
Previous studies have shown that caffeine is released into our waterways after surviving the sewage treatment process.
The hormones from the contraceptive pill and HRT have been blamed for feminising fish, leading to male fish producing eggs.
The effects of antibiotics, blood pressure drugs and cholesterol-lowering drugs on wildlife are also being studied around the world.