Urban families no longer make their butter at home. Gone are the days when cream was removed from milk and butter was made from it. The process is too cumbersome and has been gradually replaced by packaged branded butter available from a low of Rs 42 to high of Rs 46 per 100gm. Nutritionally speaking,  table butter has roughly 80% milk fat (mostly saturated), 12 to 16% water, 2% non-fat milk solids (lactose, protein), and 2-3% added salt. It is the most concentrated of dairy products, containing about 740 kilocalories per 100 grams (210 kilocalories per ounce). Butter is also a good source of Vitamin A and has a little bit of Vitamin D as well. Of all of these attributes, which have the most say in determining the quality of the butter, seven brands account for a large bulk of butter sold at retail and consumed in urban households. Consumer Voice evaluated these seven brands of table butter on attributes as per their importance and relevance. They included the well known Amul, Mother Diary, Govardhan, Vita, DMS, Verka and Paras.  Each of these brands was tested in a NABL accredited lab by Consumer Voice after samples were bought at retail without knowledge of brand owners. The findings from Consumer Voice test results have revealed, among other things, whether the brands have the minimum 80% milk fat as specified by the food standards.

Test criteria scores for testing butter     

The lab tested the seven brands on a range of quality, safety and acceptability parameters. These included milk fat, milk solids not fat, curd, moisture, acidity and common salt. The brands were further subjected to adulteration tests, microbiological tests and sensory tests. The tests were based on FSSAI regulations, Agmark standard and IS 13690 standard for butter. Each of these criteria were allotted and pre determined weightage which was computed as a score out of 100 for each brand based on lab test results. Vita scored the highest at 93/100 followed by Verka 91/100 , DMS 89/100. They were closely followed by Mother Diary and Govardhan at 87/100 each. Amul and Paras scored 86/100 and 84/100 respectively. The reason that they scored differently is because of their differences in nutritional content found by test results.

Milk fat

It is the most important constituent of butter. Fat is an essential part of any balanced diet, providing essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins and a concentrated source of energy. As per Dietary Guidelines for Indians by National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, 2011, diets of young children and adolescents should contain about 30 grams to 50 grams fat per day. So, a higher amount of milk fat is better for consumers. Milk has mainly two parts: fat and solids not fat (SNF). Apart from fat, all other solids such as vitamins, minerals, protein and lactose together make up SNF.

As per national standards, the minimum requirement for milk fat in table butter is 80%. In the Consumer Voice test fat percentage was above the minimum requirement in all brands. Vita and Verka (83.9% each) had the highest fat content followed by DMS (82.8%).  These three brands were among the top three scorers only because of their fat content which has a weight of 30% score.

How do we test adulteration in butter? In case of adulteration milk fats may be substituted by other types of cheaper fats. This can be verified by lab tests.   Reichert-Meissl (RM) value of extracted fat is tested in a lab. It determines adulteration. All tested brands met the requirement set by FSS Regulations.

Another test is Butyro-refractometer (BR) reading of extracted fat. BR reading can be used to check adulteration, if any, of milk fat. An increase in BR reading indicates adulteration with vegetable oil. BR reading can be used to check adulteration, if any, of milk fat. An increase in BR reading indicates adulteration with vegetable oil.

Milk solids not fat (SNF)

SNF in table butter should be a maximum two per cent as per FSS Regulations.

SNF was found within the permissible limit (0.4% to 1.4%) in all brands.

DMS (0.4%) was lowest in SNF ad scored highest followed by Vita (0.7%) .

Curd

Curd should be a maximum 1.0% as per Indian Standard and 1.5% as per AGMARK.

Curd was highest in Amul and Paras (both 1.3%) and lowest in DMS (0.4% and Vita 0.6%).

Moisture

The maximum permissible limit for moisture in table butter is 16%. The presence of moisture is inherent in butter processing and to some extent is good for maintaining the taste and odour. But an excess of moisture compromises the quality of the butter

Moisture in all brands was within specified limit.

Vita (13.7%) and Verka (13.8%) had the lowest amounts of moisture. It is good for consumers. This is another reason that these two brands scored the highest.

Acidity

Acidity should be a maximum 0.15% as per Indian Standards. Acidity is caused due to lactic acid produced by the action of bacteria. As acidity increases with storage time, this parameter is a means of checking storage conditions. All brands were found within the specified limit.

Common salt

Salt should be a maximum three per cent in table butter as per FSS Regulations. Salt is added in butter as a preservative and also as a taste and flavour enhancer. Salt must be homogenously mixed during the processing of butter to give it a uniform taste. All the brands had salt and tasted salty. Salt was found lowest in Verka (1.5%) and highest in Mother Dairy (2.1%).

Microbiological contamination

Microbiological contamination is a serious issue for milk and milk products. Microorganisms are responsible for many food-borne diseases. We conducted tests as per FSS Regulations, for yeast and mould count, aerobic plate count, coliform count, E. Coli, S. Aureus, Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. All the brands passed in these tests and got near uniform scores on this criteria.

Sensory Tests

The samples were judged by an expert panel on these attributes: a) colour, b) appearance, c) flavour, d) body and texture, and e) packaging. The test guidelines were as prescribed in Indian Standard 7769-1975.

Amul was the top performer and was followed by Mother Dairy and Vita.

DMS scored lowest.

Amul was rated best on flavour.

Amul and Vita had very good packing. DMS was wrapped only in butter paper and was given the lowest score.

Packing and marking

Packing should be proper because it protects the product from deterioration and increases its shelf life. Each pack should also carry information about the characteristics of the product and/or the claims of the manufacturer. The samples were verified against the marking requirements as given in the relevant Indian Standards.

Except DMS, all brands were wrapped in printed butter paper and packed in hard paper box. DMS was wrapped in butter paper only. This brand is also the cheapest rs 42 /100 gms—rs 4 cheaper than Amul as it saves on cost of packaging. 

DMS did not carry the green dot mark and customer-care details.

Net weight was found to be above the declared quantity in all the brands.

Only Amul and Vita had AGMARK. Among seven tested brands.

The author is former head and Dean of Faculty of Commerce at University of Delhi

Consumer Voice, which has conducted these surveys, is a 35-year-old Delhi-based consumer organisation, member of Consumers International, London, and specialises in comparative testing of consumer products and services for consumer education. For more, visit www.Consumer-voice.org

Disclaimer: This study was conducted independently by Consumer Voice

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