A public health threat of epic proportions | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 12, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:14 PM, February 12, 2019

A public health threat of epic proportions

Even the milk we're consuming is not safe

In yet another report that depicts the sorry state of food quality in the country, it was learnt that raw cow milk contains unusually high levels of pesticide, antibiotic and bacteria, according to a study conducted by the National Food Safety Laboratory of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. A whopping 96 percent of raw milk and 66-80 percent of packed milk were found to contain bacteria. And what's more, the presence of heavy metals in milk was traced to the source, i.e. cattle feed—of which around 69 percent was found to have high levels of chromium—and pesticide traced back to grass and other agricultural feeds.

The threat that this poses to public health cannot be put into words. It is hard to believe that millions of people are regularly consuming milk that is most likely contaminated and contains extremely toxic substances. This could lead to a horde of diseases ranging from rash to cancer.

Unfortunately, the nature of the problem is so complex that there is no easy short-term solution. But the fact that such a large percentage of milk is contaminated points to the absence of an effective monitoring mechanism which could have prevented adulterated milk from infiltrating the market. This has clearly gone on for so long that the problem has now snowballed. The health ministry needs to take notice and act on the High Court order made yesterday, which directed the concerned government authorities to conduct a survey to determine the extent to which milk and curd in the market have lead, antibiotic and bacteria. All contaminated milk must be withdrawn from the market. The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution must also step in and conduct drives to investigate the extent to which packed milk in the market is contaminated, and take action against companies that are selling adulterated food products. Moreover, there is an urgent need to launch mass awareness-raising programmes to educate farmers and feed manufacturers about the dangers of excessive use of antibiotics and pesticides.

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