THE High Court’s order of Tuesday for the government to ensure that no antibiotics are administered to cows without prescriptions written by veterinary surgeons is welcome in that the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, which earlier told the court that is not equipped to detect the presence of bacteria, antibiotics and detergent in pasteurised milk, doubted two tests — the findings were made public on June 25 and July 12 — conducted by the Centre for Biomedical Research and the faculty of pharmacy in the University of Dhaka that found the presence of antibiotics of four types in pasteurised milk. In view of the test reports that the university team published, another bench on July 12 ordered the Standards and Testing Institution to have pasteurised milk of 14 brands tested in four government laboratories — ICDDR,B, the Institute of Public Health, Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute — in a week and to submit the reports to the court at the next hearing posted for July 23. The Standards and Testing Institution, when it submitted a report to court on June 23, however, said that only 18 companies have licences to market pasteurised milk in pillow pouches and the milk that the companies sell is safe for consumption.
A judicious use of antibiotics is essential as the abuse of it, which could find way to humans, would only endanger public health. If standard protocol is not adhered to in the administration of antibiotics to cattle, the antibiotic residue could easily enter human body by way of meat consumption and cause disastrous consequences. The misuse and abuse of antibiotics, even in cases where antibiotics are not needed such as the incidence of fever, cold and diarrhoea, allow bacteria to mutate and adapt to counter antibiotics, resulting in antimicrobial resistance. Experts have already listed a rampant use of antibiotics, which are the second best-selling drug products in Bangladesh after the drugs for stomach acidity, and the use of antibiotics without adherence to the standard protocol as major reasons for bacteria becoming antibiotic-resistant. The High Court on April 25, therefore, ordered the government to stop the sales of antibiotics without prescriptions written by registered physicians in efforts to head off a public health disaster by way of antimicrobial resistance that unregulated and rampant use of such drugs cause. The Directorate General of Drug Administration is reported about a month after the court order not to have put in much efforts to stop the sales of antibiotics without prescriptions, which is prohibited even by the Allopathic System (Prevention of Misuse) Ordinance 1962.
When the presence of antibiotics is found in cow milk because of the abuse of the drugs in treating food animals, it is only logical that the presence of antibiotics could also be found in meat as many cattle may have been slaughtered before the antibiotic residues go off. While the government, in such a situation, must stop that the administration of antibiotics to food animals without prescriptions written by veterinary surgeons and without standard protocol being adhered to, it should also run test on meat that are on sales in kitchen markets to see if there is the presence of antibiotics in it.
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