There is no harmful substance such as lead and antibiotic in packaged milk of seven local brands, the agriculture minister said yesterday, citing a latest government study.
Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council (Barc) carried out the test at the SGS In-dia, one of the world’s leading testing and certification company, said Abdur Raz-zaque while sharing the findings at a press conference at the secretariat.
The findings are at odds with 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.
Each of these tests, done at top government and private laboratories, found numer-ous harmful substances in milk, including detergent, pesticides, antibiotics meant for human, lead and cadmium.
The latest study comes amid concerns about the quality of packaged and non-packaged milk.
It also comes a day after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina cast doubt over a recent study by some Dhaka University researchers. Hasina 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?
The latest test sparked confusion among consumers.
“We are at a loss. Should we drink milk or should we not? Who is right here? said Ishita Zabin, a mother of two from Mohammadpur.
She said they were shocked and panicked to see on television that several government and nongovernment organisations found harmful substances in packaged milk.
“Now the government is saying that milk contains no harmful substance. It’s a total confusion,” she said.
Firoz Ahmed, a resident of Dhanmondi, shared her sentiment.
“Can anyone tell me what we should do now? We don’t want to be in such a situation. We want this confusion to end,” he said.
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 fur-ther tests to confirm their findings.
On why they did the test at those laboratories, he said they did so as per the HC directives.
The Daily Star tried to reach the BSTI chairman, but his phone was found switched off.
MILK: TEST FINDINGS AND COURT ORDERS
May 17, 2018
75pc pasteurised milk unsafe for direct consumption, media reports say, citing icddr,b research.
May 20, 2018
SC lawyer Tanvir Ahmed files petition with the HC seeking its directives.
May 21, 2018
The HC orders formation of expert committee to test pasteurised milk and submit report in a month.
Health ministry study finds excessive levels of lead, pesticide, antibiotic and bacteria in raw cow milk and high levels of chromium in cow feeds; says regular consumption harmful.
May 8, 2019
BFSA report submitted to HC finds harmful elements in most of 190 samples of raw and packaged liquid milk, curd, and fodder.
May 21, 2019
The HC expresses dissatisfaction at BSTI for not properly testing raw cow milk, curd and fodder and orders authorities to identify the quantity of harmful bacteria, chemicals, lead and antibiotics in them. The HC also directs BSTI and BFSA to get raw cow milk, curd and fodder examined in labs and submit test reports to it by June 23.
June 25, 2019
Prof ABM Faroque, director of Biomedical Research Centre at DU, unveils findings that there are antibiotics meant for humans and detergent in packaged milk available in market after testing seven samples of widely-sold pasteurised milk brands and three samples of unpasteurised milk.
June 25, 2019
BSTI submits a report to the HC, saying its test had not detected any hazardous substance in pasteurised milk from 14 brands.
July 13, 2019
Dhaka University researchers find antibiotics in milk again; detect four antibiotics for humans in 10 samples of pasteurised and non-pasteurised milk.
July 14, 2019
Amid controversies, the HC directs BSTI to test in a week the pasteurised milk produced by 14 companies at laboratories of IPH, icddr,b, Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute and Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
July 16, 2019
BFSA submits a report to the HC, saying it has detected lead in pasteurised milk from 11 brands after tests at six laboratories and found lead, cadmium, and another heavy metal in raw cow milk available in market.
July 24, 2019
Following a July 16 HC order, the BFSA sues 10 pasteurised milk brands.
July 28, 2019
The HC orders authorities to stop production, distribution and sale of 14 pasteurised milk brands for the next five weeks.
July 30, 2019
The SC’s Appellate Division clears the way for Milk Vita, Akij Food and Beverage Ltd (Farm Fresh Milk) and Pran Dairy Ltd (Pran Milk) to produce, distribute and sell pasteurised milk.
July 30, 2019
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expresses concern over the HC directive banning the production, distribution, sale and consumption of milk from 14 brands.