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Lead, pesticides, antibiotics found in milk

  • Published at 11:45 am February 10th, 2019
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Govt survey finds high levels of contaminants in dairy products

The National Food Safety Laboratory (NFSL) has found high levels of contaminants in dairy products in a recent survey.

The study, titled “Detection of heavy metal, drug and pesticide residue, mycotoxins and microbial contaminants in raw and packaged cow’s milk, curd and feed,” was conducted from August to December 2018 by NFSL, with the support of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). 

The information was disclosed by Dr Shahnila Ferdousi, head of NFSL (Institute of Public Health), during an event organized at the Institute of Public Health to celebrate the laboratory being accredited by the Bangladesh Accreditation Board.

Samples for the study were collected from six upazilas of Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj, as well as various parts of Dhaka city.

A total of 96 samples of raw milk were tested. Among those, nine contained pesticides, 10 had tetracycline, five contained lead and three contained aflatoxins above permissible limits. About 96% of the samples had microbial contaminants.

Among 31 samples of packaged milk that were tested, nine contained tetracycline over the permissible limit, while one sample contained lead. Overall, 66-80% of the packaged milk tested contained various levels of microbial contaminants. 

Of 33 samples of curd that were tested, one sample contained lead over the permissible limit, while 51% of the samples contained microbial contaminants.

Meanwhile, among 30 samples of cow feed, the NFSL detected high levels of pesticides in two samples, chromium in 16 samples, tetracycline in 22 samples, enrofloxacin in 26 samples, aflatoxins in 4 samples, and ciproxin in all 30 samples.

Toxins can cause liver, kidney problems, even cancer

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, health professionals said consumption of these contaminants can put people's livesat risk. They can lead to liver and kidney problems and can even cause cancer.

Former director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and National Influenza Center Professor Mahmudur Rahman said the high rate of contamination will affect the consumer and put people's livesat risk.

Speakers at an event organized to celebrate the National Food Safety Laboratory’s accreditation by the Bangladesh Accreditation Board, at the Institute of Public Health auditorium in Dhaka on Sunday; February 10, 2019 Dhaka Tribune

“Excessive fertilizer and pesticide used on feed during cultivation can pass on to the animals. With consumption of milk and meat, it may transmit into human body,” he said.

This can lead to liver and kidney problems.

“The research found lead in milk, which cannot be removed by boiling. At its extreme, risk of cancer may also increase,” he added.

“The antibiotics in food can create resistance in human body. People may suffer from loss of appetite, headache, and anxiety,” he added.

Dhaka University's Institute of Nutrition and Food Science Professor Khaleda Islam said heavy metals like lead and chromium are always harmful for human health, especiallyaffecting kidney function.

“Lead in excessive amounts in any food is harmful. More research should be done on the topic to ensure food safety for people,” she added.

’Food safety is essential’

Addressing the event, FAO Deputy Representative in Bangladesh David Doolan said: “This laboratory requires a strong organogram and more skilled manpower to run efficiently in the future.”

He further said the personnel at the lab are highly qualified, and called for their posts to be upgraded.

“Quality food is an important issue. Food safety is essential,” he added.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque said: “Quality food is important in all countries for the sake of public health. Bangladesh is now self-sufficient in the production of food, and this food should be free from contamination. Addressing food contamination will require a multi-sectoral approach.” 

He added that it was not sufficient to enact laws, they also have to be enforced.

“I will do everything in my power to ensure that food safety laws are implemented,” he said.

Director General of Health Services Dr Abul Kalam Azad said Bangladesh has made significant strides in food production, and efforts to address quality issues were now underway.

BFSA at a glance

Fight against food adulteration was institutionalized after the government established Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) on February 2, 2015.

The government has established 71 courts across the country to try offenses under the Food Safety Act 2013.

Officials said the main obstacle against ensuring food safety was the lack of awareness among common people and producers’ tendency to profit unethically. However, the BFSA has launched awareness programs for school students about food hygiene to change the scenario.

The BFSA is now working to establish a food testing laboratory of international standards, setting up some mobile laboratories to test products at kitchen markets, establishment of a body called the Artificial Ripening Chamber to monitor use of food colouring and preservatives, in addition to regular awareness campaigns.

It also has a plan to set up a call centre to listen to public opinions and complains, said officials.

Tetracycline is a broad spectrum antibiotic often used on animals.

Aflatoxins are poisonous carcinogens that are produced by certain molds which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains.

Microbial contamination is the growth of harmful microorganisms and their toxins and by-products.

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