This is about the health of the new generation
As an offshoot over the current drive on safe food, the saga over milk has caught everyone’s attention. Here is a basic food that is consumed by everyone who can afford it in the Tetra Pak version, and those that are fortunate enough to get it fresh.
Milk has been diluted from the days that the country salesmen peddled their wares either in aluminium cans or the old fashioned cow-skin carriers. Truly, fresh milk is available to a few fortunate people, that too at premium prices.
Others have to depend on the companies that claim their product is just as fresh, only packed more conveniently.
The Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI) is reported to be able to check only nine parameters of such milk, whereas a private investigation by a group of university teachers tested some 15 of the 19 accepted parameters of food safety.
Their findings left everyone shocked and bewildered. All brands of packaged liquid milk revealed a combination ranging from antibiotics to lead particles present in the milk.
This itself is confusing, given these are supposedly routinely sample-tested by the Bangladesh Standards Testing Institute and provided a seal of approval of sorts.
But as the safe food drive revealed, most of these seals are either false or haven’t been tested at all.
The companies swear by the fact that the milk is sourced from genuine urban and rural dairy farms, and are as wholesome as can be. And their advertisements reinforce everything that’s fresh.
If that is so, the harmful particles discovered have to be emanating from the machining process that the milk is run through. In other words, the maintenance of such machines can be called into question.
Any machining process probably adds some form of preservative, and that is probably where the foreign matter originates. Taking the milk off the shelves has not been suggested following the teachers’ investigation.
On the contrary, questions have been asked of the veracity of these tests.
So much so that it is time these tests are internationally done for checking and the BSTI laboratory brought up to speed with international standards.
Antibiotics are medicines that should only be prescribed by physicians, but are literally sold across the counter in pharmacies.
Model pharmacies -- those that are supposed to follow the rules, do ask questions at times when across the counter salesmen are approached for antibiotics.
How these antibiotics find their way into milk that is only to be processed is the moot question that everyone’s asking.
It could well be that certain food-grade chemicals which may and are supposed to be used in the processing are the culprit in terms of purity of input.
Whatever the case, the producing companies now have the responsibility not only of explaining the findings, but also pulling their current stocks off the shelves until the matter is resolved.
This has much more to do than just fines -- if any is imposed. It is about the new generation, which is supposed to grow as healthy individuals.
Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.