Pork product detected in meat and bone meal imported under different declaration
The customs authorities have detected presence of pork products in meat and bone meal (MBM) which was illegally imported for use as fish and animal feed.
MBM is a powder made by cooking, drying and grinding inedible parts (heads, feet, intestines, bones, etc) of slaughtered animals, including cows, goats, chickens and pigs.
As Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country, the use of any pork product in animal or fish feed is a serious offence, and all measures have been taken to stop illegal import of MBM as it might contain pork product, officials concerned have said.
In many parts of the world, MBM is no longer allowed in poultry feed. The EU banned it in 1994, India in 2001 and Thailand in 2017.
In January this year, Bangladesh Food Safety Authority and the fisheries and livestock ministry banned import and sale of MBM citing its health risks for both human and livestock.
Though the import of MBM feed is banned, some businessmen appear to have imported MBM under false declaration, they say.
“As per the rules, fish and poultry feed materials will not be allowed if there is presence of meat and bone meal. Checking some consignments, we became suspicious and seized them for test to be sure,” Fakhrul Alam, commissioner of Chittagong Customs House, told Dhaka Tribune.
"In the test report, we detected presence of meat and bone of goat and cow and waste of pork in some of the consignments. We seized the goods," said Fakhrul.
In last two and a half months, Audit Investigation and Research (AIR) section of Chittagong Customs House seized 18 consignments totaling 3,112 tons of MBM.
Primarily, all the goods were seized, and investigations were launched against the offending importers, Fakhrul informed, adding that punitive action would be taken based on the findings.
“We are on the alert so that no such banned items can enter the country. We have served show-cause notices on the errant enterprises and lodged departmental cases against them,” said the commissioner.
Why MBM is banned
MBM may contain toxic chemicals such as chromium (if it is made from leather processing waste) and by-products of swine slaughtering. If feed containing MBM is fed to fish or animals, the meat or fish produced can be contaminated with chromium (which can cause cancer) or prions, which can cause mad cow disease (in cows) and fatal vCJD in humans.
“There is a legitimate concern about importing MBM which might include protein from pork slaughtering waste. This is highly sensitive in a Muslim majority country. There are also many research publications on the health risks of feed containing of MBM,” Ishtiaq Ahmed, CEO, Kazi Farms Group (Feed and Poultry Business), told Dhaka Tribune.
All these concerns significantly undermined the confidence of the consumers in poultry industry, he said, adding that as a consequence, farmers and all relevant organizations in poultry industry might experience a fall in demand.
"Since Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country, Kazi Farms does not use MBM in our feed. Our priority is to ensure halal and risk-free egg and chicken production," Ishtiaq assured.
The regulatory bodies should ensure strict disciplinary action against all importers responsible for importing illegal MBM under a different name, he said.
The poultry and fish industry has a very high potential in Bangladesh and most affordable source of protein, so the policymakers should take steps to address all these critical issues, he added.
MBM is a product of the rendering industry, which processes slaughterhouse waste into protein products for animal and fish feed. It has typically about 48–52% protein, 33–35% ash, 8–12% fat, and 4–7% water.
“MBM is primarily used in the formulation of animal feed and fish feed to reduce the cost of the feed, as MBM is a very cheap source of protein and minerals like calcium and phosphorus. MBM comes in powder form, and is made from intestines, bones, heads and feet of different animals, including cows, chickens and pigs,” Tanvir Haider Chaudhury, chief executive officer of Kazi Food Industries, has told Dhaka Tribune.
MBM is now considered a risky element in animal and fish feed because it can carry harmful bacteria that may adversely affect human and animal health, adds Tanvir.
MBM may contain toxic chemicals, like chromium, which could expose humans to serious health hazards if they consume the meat of animals or fish which have consumed feed containing MBM, Tanvir observes.
“MBM can spread diseases like mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. So, the government has banned the imports and sales of MBM as a precautionary measures to prevent spread of these diseases,” District Livestock Officer (in Chittagong) Md Reajul Huq told Dhaka Tribune.
He also suggested using fish meals and vegetable meals in the poultry feed instead of MBM.
SM Nazer Hossain, central vice president of Consumers Association Bangladesh (CAB), called for taking stern actions against the offending importers and C&F agents involved with bringing in MBM.
“Because of the health risks for human and livestock, the government has banned import and sale of MBM after unearthing import of low-grade MBM through false declaration. The errant enterprises should be slapped with a hefty fine and licence should be canceled. Otherwise, the malpractice will continue unabated,” added the consumer rights activist.
Who imported MBM and from where
The seized 18 consignments of MBM were brought in from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Belgium.
The errant importers are Aisha Corporation, Spectra Hexa Feeds Ltd, Promek Agro & Feed Products Ltd (Dhaka), Fishtech BD Ltd (Rajshahi), Aquatech Agro (BD) Ltd (Mymensingh), Advance Agrolek Bangladesh (Dhaka), Quality Feeds Ltd (Gazipur), RRP Agro Farm (Pabna), Inter Agro BD Ltd (Dhaka), Magnify Agro Ltd (Dhaka), Misham Agro Industries Ltd (Sirajganj), VNF Agro Ltd (Mymensingh) and MKA Hatchery (Cox’s Bazar), officials at Chittagong customs said.
Of them, Fishtech BD Ltd, Magnify Agro Ltd and RRP Agro Farm imported three, three consignments and two consignments respectively, they said.
The errant C&F agents were Bengal Liner Agencies, Asia Enterprise, Hayder Trade International, Al Fahim (BD), Shadhin Enterprise, Summit Enterprise, Bangladesh Shipping Agencies Pvt Ltd, Reliable Trading Agency and Ambe Clearing Ltd.
Non-FIAB feed producers a concern
“Imposing a ban on imports of MBM is a good decision and the sector people have appreciated it. But the government has to execute it to restore consumers’ confidence,” Feed Industries Association of Bangladesh (FIAB) Vice President Khandoker Monsur Hossain told Dhaka Tribune.
Considering the health risk, the FIAB members were not using MBM and were instead using fish meal, which was free from meat and bone as well as haram (forbidden) wastes of pork, assured Monsur.
On the other hand, the government should bring non-FIAB feed producers to book as they were the major customers of illegally imported MBM, added the sector leader.
The government should immediately shut the factories of those feed producers who were not members of FIAB, as they are hurting the whole industry, Monsur urged.
"Poultry industry is a great source of protein, which provides eggs and chicken at affordable prices. So, the regulator should monitor and execute the government decision so that the sector can grow," he added.