Amidst concerns and confusion among the consumers over the laboratory test findings and the high court orders on milk , Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzak claims on Wednesday that here is no harmful substance such as lead and antibiotic in packaged milk of seven local brands
Abdur Raz-zaque came up with the latest disclosure while presenting the findings of the laboratory test of Bangladesh milk as conducted by SGS India.
The findings contradicts the results of multiple tests carried out recently by the BSTI, the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, the National Food Safety Laboratory and the Dhaka University research team.
Each of these tests, done at top government and private laboratories, found numerous harmful substances in milk, including detergent, pesticides, antibiotics, lead and cadmium.
Agriculure Minister came with the new findings a day after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina cast doubt over a recent study by some Dhaka University researchers. Hasina now in London, also made remarks about the High Court ban on production, sale and consumption of pasteurised milk of 14 companies.
The HC had imposed the ban on Sunday, after examining three separate laboratory test reports. The test found that packaged milk of these 14 companies contains anti-biotics—Oxytetracycline, Tetracycline and Ciprofloxacin—as well as lead, a harmful heavy metal.
These tests were carried out by the BSTI, the sole quality control authority, at the laboratories of the Institute of Public Health, Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission.
By yesterday, however, the Supreme Court temporarily lifted the ban on all the 14 companies, clearing the way for them to resume production and sale.
These companies are Aftab Milk and Milk Producer Ltd (Aftab), Akij Food and Beverage Ltd (Farm Fresh Milk), American Dairy Limited (MOO), Bangladesh Milk Producers’ Cooperative Limited (Milk Vita), Baro Awlia Dairy Milk and Foods Ltd (Dairy Fresh), BRAC Dairy and Food Project (Aarong Dairy), Danish Dairy Farm Ltd (Ayran) Ichhamoti Dairy and Food Products (PURA), Igloo Dairy Limited (Igloo), Pran Dairy Ltd (Pran Milk), Uttar Bango Dairy (Ultra), Purbo Bangla Dairy Food Industries (Arwa) and Tania Dairy and Food Products (Safe).
The latest study was done on pasteurised milk of seven companies—Milk Vita (state-run), Aarong Milk, Farm Fresh, Igloo Milk, RD, Savar Dairy and Pran Milk.
The samples were sent to India on July 16 after they were collected from Mohammadpur, Dhanmondi, Gulshan and Farmgate areas in the capital.
The samples of unpasteurised milk were collected from producers of Rajason and Savar, and the test found no harmful substance in them as well, said the report.
At the press conference, the minister said the samples of pasteurised and non-pasteurised milk were analysed directly and after boiling for nine minutes to exam-ine the residue of antibiotics, sulpha drug and heavy metals.
“Analysing the research result, it can certainly be said that there is no health risk in the milk produced and marketed by [the seven] local companies,” Razzaque said, hoping that the latest findings would dispel public fear.
Presenting the test report, Monirul Islam, director (nutrition) of Barc, said there was no internationally accredited laboratory in the country to test the quality of food items.
“There has always been a question over the analytical capacity and the quality of local laboratories,” he said.
He claimed a vested quarter was out to spread panic by preparing reports without scientific data.
TO DRINK OR NOT TO DRINK?
Concerns over the quality of milk grew in May last year, after an icddr,b research found that more than 75 percent of all pasteurised milk available on the local market were unsafe for direct consumption.
Worries grew further after Dhaka University researchers published their own test results on June 25 this year, saying they detected detergent and three types of antibiotics meant for humans in packaged milk of 10 brands.
On the same day, the BSTI submitted a report, based on a test done at its own lab, to the HC, saying they did not find any hazardous substance in the pasteurised milk of 14 brands, including some household names, sparking a debate as to which test results to believe.
A subsequent second test by the same DU researchers on the same samples reconfirmed their findings.
Later on July 16, Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) submitted a report to the HC. Its test found lead and cadmium in pasteurised milk of 11 brands.
The BFSA did the test at the laboratories of six government and nongovernment or-ganisations—Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Plasma Plus, WAFFEN Research and International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b).
The BFSA has subsequently sued 10 of these companies.
Asked about their findings, BFSA Chairman Mahfuzul Hoque said they had their tests done at the country’s leading laboratories as per the HC instructions.
“But the testing methods as well as the testing system at those laboratories do not seem reliable,” he said, adding that they had even requested the court to order further tests to confirm their findings.