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HC: No one will be allowed to toy with people's lives

  • Published at 11:59 am May 15th, 2019
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High Court orders BSTI, BFSA to submit a detailed report on milk adulteration by June 23

During a writ hearing on milk adulteration, the High Court said no one will be allowed to toy with people's lives.

The court also said people responsible for milk adulteration will have to face punishment and the public should be made aware of the matter.

The High Court bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice KM Hafizul Alam made the observation on Wednesday.

On May 8, the High Court had directed the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) to submit a detailed report on milk adulteration before it by May 15.

However, BSTI and BFSA filed a petition seeking more time from the court to submit the report.

The High Court then ordered BSTI and BFSA to submit the report_ including the name of companies involved in adulteration of milk, dairy products and fodders_within June 23.

The court also asked Dr Shahnila Ferdous, head of National Food Safety Laboratory (NFSL), to appear before it on June 21 and describe the methods used to collect samples of milk.

Barrister Faridul Alam stood for BFSA, Sarkar MR Hassan (Mamun) appeared for BSTI, and Deputy Attorney General AKM Aminuddin represented the state.

The Anti-Corruption Commission’s lawyer, Syed Mamun Mahbub, told the court that the commission could not take action against those responsible as BSTI and BFSA had not submitted any reports.

Earlier, BFSA had submitted a report, corroborating an NFSL survey report, which found high levels of contaminants in milk and dairy products.

That survey result had 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 Bangladesh. It also wanted those responsible identified.

BFSA formed a 16-member committee on February 17, but it did not identify those responsible for the adulteration in its report.


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

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

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

A displeased High Court wanted a list of the companies responsible.

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 the market, TPC and CC were above permissible limits in 17 and six samples respectively, molds were found in 17, and lead in one.

Meanwhile, of the 30 samples of cow feed tested, 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.


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The order and the respondents

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

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.


Also Read- Who is poisoning our milk products?


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.

Bullet points

1. BSFA report, submitted on May 8, said harmful chemical lead and antibiotics were found in 96 samples of unpacked milk.

2. High Court on Wednesday orders BSTI, BFSA to submit detailed report on milk adulteration by June 23

3. The court also asked NFSL chief Dr Shahnila Ferdous to appear before it on June 21