'Bacteria in Baby Milk': 1,000 cartons withdrawn, 7,000 sold
The powdered baby milk suspected of having Salmonella bacteria has been taken off retail stores across the country, said JES International, which imports the product from French company Lactalis.
"Until today [January 15], we have withdrawn some 1,000 of the total 8,000 cartons [each containing 24 boxes] of the baby milk. Rest of it has been consumed," Zawadul Haque, a partner of the company, told The Daily Star yesterday.
"To the best of our knowledge, there is no more baby milk [in the stores] that is suspected of being contaminated by Salmonella," he said. The products were marketed in July last year, he added.
Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) Director SM Amirul Islam, however, said a portion of the products may still be in stores but they were being taken down.
The withdrawal move comes after Lactalis recalled more than 12 million boxes of powdered baby milk in 83 countries, including Bangladesh, as Salmonella bacteria was discovered at a factory in France, reports BBC.
Salmonella can cause severe diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and severe dehydration. It can be life-threatening, especially in young children.
So far, 35 cases have been reported in France and another one has been confirmed in Spain.
Another possible case is being investigated in Greece, French authorities said on Friday.
Alarmed by the discovery, the BFSA asked JES International on December 15 to withdraw the baby milk in question -- Babycare-1 and Babycare-2 [batch numbers -- 17C0012388, 17C0012668, 17C0012380, 17C0012435, 17C0012991, 17C0012669, 17C0012993 and 17C0013570] -- from the stores across the country.
JES International then sent samples from these batches to the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) on December 26. The bacteria, however, was not found in those samples, according to the test report obtained by The Daily Star
"We have still withdrawn the products based on suspicion. There are, however, no doubts about Salmonella contamination regarding the batches of the same products manufactured in 2016. Those are absolutely safe," he added.
BFSA Director Amirul Islam told this correspondent at his office that they formed a committee on December 31 to oversee the issue of baby milk contamination.
The authorities sealed off two go-downs of JES International -- one in Mitford area and the other one in Chankharpool area -- on January 1 and 2 respectively, he told this correspondent. Together, there were 11,616 cartons of the milk.
"We also instructed our food safety inspectors to closely monitor the food stores across the country," Amirul said.
Any negligence on part of the importer in withdrawing the suspected milk would lead to legal actions, he said, warning that the issue was a serious public health concern and people too should not buy from the batches of the baby milk in question.
He, however, noted that there has not yet been any report of illness linked to the baby milk consumption.
Visiting several superstores, drug stores, and grocery shops in Badda, Rampura, Khilgaon, Dhanmondi, and Farmgate areas, The Daily Star did not see any milk from the batches in question but there was milk from other batches produced in 2016.