The oldest and simplest method of adulterating milk is by dilution with water. This destroys the natural yellowish-white color and produces a bluish tint, which is sometimes corrected by the addition of a small amount of coloring matter.

Another form of adulteration is the removal of the cream and the sale as whole milk of skimmed or partially skimmed milk. Again, the difficulty experienced in the preservation of milk in warm weather has led to the widespread use of chemical preservatives.

Detection of Water

If a lactometer or hydrometer, which can be obtained of dealers in chemical apparatus, be available, the specific gravity of milk will afford some clew as to whether the sample has been adulterated by dilution with water. Whole milk has a specific gravity between 1.027 and 1.033. The specific gravity of skimmed milk is higher, and milk very rich in cream is sometimes lower than these figures. It is understood, of course, that by specific gravity is meant the weight of a substance with reference to the weight of an equal volume of water. The specific gravity of water is 1. It is obvious that if water be added to a milk with the specific gravity of 1.030, the specific gravity of the mixture will be somewhat below those figures.

An indication by means of a hydrometer or lactometer below the figure 1.027 therefore indicates either that the sample in question is a very rich milk or that it is a milk (perhaps normal, perhaps skimmed) that has been watered. The difference in appearance and nature of these two extremes is sufficiently obvious to make use of the lactometer or hydrometer of value as a preliminary test of the purity of milk.

Detection of Color

As previously stated when milk is diluted by means of water the natural yellowish-white color is changed to a bluish tint, which is sometimes corrected by the addition

of coloring matter. Coal-tar colors are usually employed for this purpose. A reaction for these colors is often obtained in the method given below for the detection of formaldehyde. When strong hydrochloric acid is added to the milk in approximately equal proportions before the mixture is heated a pink tinge sometimes is evident if a coal-tar color has been added.

Detection of Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is the substance most commonly used for preserving milk and is rarely, if ever, added to any other food. Its use is inexcusable and especially objectionable in milk served to infants and invalids.

To detect formaldehyde in milk 3 or 4 tablespoonfuls of the sample are placed in a teacup with at least an equal amount of strong hydrochloric acid and a piece of ferric alum about as large as a pin-head, the liquids being mixed by a gentle rotary motion. The cup is then placed in a vessel of boiling water, no further heat being applied, and left for 5 minutes. At the end of this time, if formaldehyde be present, the mixture will be distinctly purple. If too much heat is applied, a muddy appearance is imparted to the contents of the cup.


Great care must be exercised in working with hydrochloric acid, as it is strongly corrosive.