[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] out tampering," he said. "Everything in it is balanced - the fat, salts and proteins." he literally waved away questions about the possible ill effects of cholesterol, a fatty substance in the bloodstream linked to the consumption of animal fats and which many scientists in the U.S., and Russia as well, are certain contributes to hardening of the arteries, a life-shortening disease.

Sour cream is a mealtime companion of such calorie-loaded local specialities as pilmenyi , meat balls wrapped in dough and boiled; varyenichki , dough-wrapped tidbits of sweet cheese, and blini , the famous Russian crepes. In addition, Russian soups such as borsch are garnished with smetana and someho it isn't right to eat bread plain. Whether black brown, rye or the much sought-after varieties of white, bread is best under a thick layer of butter or sweet cheese.

Drinking milk in half-liter packets cost about 22 cents for the 3 percent variety and 32 cents for the favored 6 percent grade. Sweet cheeses in 100-gm packets range in price from about 20 cents up to about 35 cents. Sour creams and milks show a similar price range.

In America, advances in handling and refrigeration over the past 30 years have steadily extended the useful life of fresh milk so it is not unusual for an unopened carton to last eight to 10 days in the refrigerator before spoiling. Although Antonov emphasized that Soviet dairies employ similar modern techniques, fresh milk here normally doesn't last beyond a few days. When asked aobut this, Antonov looked baffled and retorted, "Women buy milk each day." During the summer, sterilized milk, which rivals U.S. fresh milk in longevity, is a great favorite. (Many foreigners here order their milk in weekly batches from Finland. Although more expensive, Finnish milk lasts much longer in the carton than local milk.)

Triangular heavy paper containers began replacing milk bottles here in 1965> although the speciality products like sour cream, baked milk and yogurt are sold in a variety of returnable glass bottles.Antonov says he much prefers the paper containers and longs for the day when all his dairy's products are produced that way. "Bottles are hard to care for. They must be collected and washed, and they are not as easy or economical to transport as the packets. But some people are conservative and afraid of advanced design."

Indeed. Several Moscovites said they are sure that milk tasted better when in came in bottles. There is no home delivery in this city and people shop for food, as they do throughout much of Europe, during their lunch breaks or while heading for the homeward bus. The ever-present string bag containing two or three bottles of smetana or kefir dangling from the arm of office worker, street sweeper and poet alike is a convention of Soviet life.

Consumption of dairy products has climed steadily in the U.S.S.R., from about 338 pounds per person per year in 1913 to about 827 pounds in 1977, according to Liubov A. Konoshenko, vice minister of the State Ministry of Meat and Dairy Industries. (Americans, on the other hand, consumed 267 pounds per person in 1976, according to the National Dairy Council.)

Dairy director Antonov says says his factory will continue experimenting with new products to push the average even higher. The diary has introduced new cheese spreads featuring fish, hot pepper, lemon and other flavors. But what are the additives in a packet of sweet, lemon-flavored cheese? No ingredients are listed on the label. "Everything's natural," says Antonov.

But if the dairy officials foresee higher production and consumption, some medical authorities here are alarmed by this very aspect of life.

Writing in pravda, the official party newspaper, in 1976, the director of Academy of Medicine's heart research center noted that "a comparison of diets shows that the populations of a number of our cities consume more fats and carbohydrates than, for instance, residents of California." Director Ye, Chazov said this consumption of animal fats can lead to obseity and circulatory problems.

"The wider use of margarine in food preparation should be recommended, since it is rich in saturated fatty acids. Fat-free milk contains large amounts of protein . . . We should organize the production of dietetic products made from fat-free milk."

But then, as if taking note of what the eye reveals in this nation of ample figures, Chazov added, "It is also necessary to take into account existing habits and the specific features of national cuisine . . . "

"We produce margarine in some factories," sniffed Konoshenko, the dairy and meat vice minister. "But no one eats it. It is not an important dietetic factor."

How right she is.What a problem . . . What will the government do . . .

Uh, meanwhile . . . could you pass the smetana , please?