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Who is poisoning our milk products?

  • Published at 05:24 pm May 8th, 2019
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A displeased High Court now wants a list of the responsible companies

The High Court has ordered the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) to submit a list of the companies involved in adulteration of milk, dairy products and fodders within May 15.

The bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice KM Hafizul Alam on Wednesday gave the order, after BFSA submitted a report on the adulteration.

Deputy Attorney General AKM Amin Uddin Manik, who represented the state at the hearing, said the court expressed dissatisfaction with the report.

The BFSA report only corroborated the National Food Safety Laboratory (NFSL) survey report, published in February, which found high levels of contaminants in milk and dairy products.

That survey results had also prompted the same High Court bench to order the authorities concerned to form a committee and find out how much contaminated milk, dairy products and cow fodders are supplied and sold across the country. It also wanted those responsible identified.

Deputy Attorney General Manik said the court had asked the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), BFSA and Central Food Safety Management Coordination Committee (CFSMCC) to implement its order.

He said BFSA formed a 16-member committee on February 17, but it did not identify those responsible for the adulteration in its report. “Rather, BFSA only submitted an affidavit supporting the original NFSL survey findings. They also mentioned the work plan they have devised.”

This left the court unhappy and led it to order BFSA to submit the list of companies responsible for the adulteration, Manik added.

What NFSL found

The NFSL report said that molecular analysis found Total Plate Counts (TPC) and Coliform Counts (CC) above permissible limits in 93 out of 96 samples of raw milk, and salmonella in one sample.

Chemical analysis also found, above permissible limits, pesticides in nine samples, lead in five, aflatoxin in three, tetracycline in 10 and ciprofloxacin in one.

Tetracycline is a broad spectrum antibiotic often used on animals, while aflatoxins are poisonous carcinogens that are produced by certain molds which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains.

NFSL had also tested packaged milk samples — 21 local and 10 imported.

Of the local samples, molecular analysis found TPC and CC above permissible limits in 17 and molds in 14, while CC was above permissible limits in one sample of imported milk.

Chemical analysis also found aflatoxin in one local sample and tetracycline in six. Tetracycline was found in three imported samples too.

Out of 33 yogurt samples collected from market, TPC and CC were above permissible limits in 17 and six, respectively, molds were found in 17 and lead in one.

Meanwhile, of the 30 samples of cow feed, the NFSL detected high levels of pesticides in two, chromium in 16, tetracycline in 22, enrofloxacin in 26, aflatoxins in four, and ciprofloxacin in all 30.

The order and the respondents

The High Court on February 11, a day after the NFSL report came out, in a suo moto rule had ordered the authorities, including the Anti-Corruption Commission, to identify the responsible companies.

Different national dailies had published news items citing the survey report on the presence of pesticides, antibiotics, and bacteria in raw cow’s milk.

The secretaries of food, agriculture, fisheries and livestock, and health ministries and the Cabinet Division, all members of BFSA, members of CFSMCC, and chairman of BSTI were made respondents to the rule.

Besides, the court had issued a ruling seeking explanation as to why the inaction and failure of the respondents to stop the adulteration of cow milk and dairy products should not be declared illegal, and why those responsible for the adulteration would not be brought to book.