THE National Food Safety Laboratory of the Institute of Public Health on Sunday raised the alarm about serious microbial, chemical and residual contamination in raw and packaged cow milk and curd. The laboratory, as New Age reported on Monday, published a report that claimed to have detected Salmonella, Escherichia coli, aflatoxin and dangerous levels of residues of deadly pesticides like endosulfan and chemicals like chromium and lead in samples tested between August and December in 2018. Pediatricians, however, expressed concern over exposing children to health risks caused to them by this contaminated milk and curd. The laboratory tested 190 samples — 96 raw cow milk samples collected from dairy firms, 31 samples of the imported and locally produced milk and 33 curd samples. These were collected from 18 places of six upazilas in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj.
It would be frightening for the consumers of this milk and curd if we give an analytical account of these samples. The presence of Escherichia Coli bacteria was found in 96 per cent of raw milk samples and the bacteria Salmonella was found in one of the samples. It needs to be noted that the world is very careful to keep Salmonella from getting into the food chain for its devastating health impact. About 13 per cent of raw milk samples contained microbial tetracycline residues exceeding the permissible limit and about 15 per cent of raw milk had high level of lead while 13 per cent had high level of aflatoxin, a poisonous carcinogen that causes cancer. The World Health Organisation categorised aflatoxin as the world’s leading carcinogen while its role of causing liver malfunctioning also cannot be dispensed with. About 30 per cent of local and imported packaged milk had residues of tetracycline above the permissible level. The presence of lead was detected in one of the curd samples that were tested. What is deplorable is that about 51 per cent of the curd samples failed to pass microbial safety test. Experts believe that fodder is largely responsible for the contamination of tested milk samples. The tests found 69 per cent of the fodder samples containing dangerously high level of Chromium. The international standard permitted 500 micro gram of Chromium to be present in a kilogram of fodder while the tests detected the presence of Chromium up to 36,000 micro gram in a kilogram of fodder. In 2018, an investigation by Bangladesh Food Safety Authority revealed gaping leaks along the dairy value chain causing widespread microbial contamination in pasteurised milk. It is not surprising that many children are suffering from diarrhea, pneumonia and other life threatening diseases including hampered brain development.
The government’s indifference to dairy companies of the country appears to be geared more towards creating the scope for business than actually addressing the issue at hand. It is high time that authorities looked into the matter seriously to ensure that dairy companies have end-to-end compliance with hygienic milking practices, collection and delivery.
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