Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) has found presence of excessive level of lead in products of some local brands that import milk powder in bulk quantities and repackage it locally.
The BFSA issued a letter to all the Customs Houses of Bangladesh in this regard on Thursday.
The letter, signed by BFSA Secretary Dr Md Khaled Hussain, said contaminated baby foods were being imported in bulk, and later being sold in the local market after repackaging.
The food safety authority suggested that the food items should be checked at the import level.
The customs authorities were also asked not to deliver consignments of powdered milk before the lab test results of lead are obtained.
The letter directed all the land and sea ports to obtain samples of each powdered milk consignment and send those to Dhaka’s Atomic Energy Centre, BCSIR, and Institute of Public Health for testing.
The port authorities were also asked to attach the lab test results to each consignment before sending it to the chairman of BFSA.
Child health specialists say chronic exposure or short term overexposure to lead poses serious health risks particularly for children.
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurological, hematological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.
Dr Pranab Kumar Chowdhury, head of Child Health Department at Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH), told the Dhaka Tribune: “Due to underdeveloped organs, an infant cannot excrete toxins from its body like an adult.
"As a result, heavy metals like lead stay for relatively longer period of time in an infant's body.”
He said: “An infant grows every day but toxins like lead hamper their physical growth and development. These can also affect a child’s developing brain."
"Children are particularly vulnerable to neurotoxic effects of lead. Even a relatively low level of exposure can cause serious damage, and in some case, the neurological damage can be irreversible,” the pediatrician warned.
Earlier in December 2017, French baby-milk maker Lactalis ordered recall of all of the production of one of its factories since February – over fears of possible contamination with salmonella.
The growing baby milk scandal is affecting around 30 countries, including Britain, Greece, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Sudan, Peru and Colombia, according to a French government list released earlier this month, AP said in a report.