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Dairy cos meet today to devise salvage plan

Ismail Hossain | Published: July 22, 2019 11:46:46 | Updated: July 23, 2019 15:35:30


Collected photo used for representational purpose only

The country's dairy sector entrepreneurs and milk product manufacturers are sitting in an emergency meeting today (Monday).

The meeting takes place at the backdrop of repeated findings of harmful components, including antibiotics and detergent, in pasteurised milk in various tests.

They will discuss about bringing back confidence of consumers, as the test findings along with subsequent negative reports gravely affected the dairy industry, and pushed down its sale by as low as 40 per cent.

The stakeholders, under the National Dairy Development Forum (NDDF), will sit at Pran-RFL head office in the city.

The NDDF is an initiative of the Oxfam International. It consists of about 20 groups of stakeholders of dairy sector, including dairy farmers, dairy processors, dairy input suppliers, researchers, academicians, dairy practitioners, and development organisations and donor agencies.

"We will sit on Monday, and try to devise combined initiatives to overcome the present crisis," Umme Kulsum Smrity, President of the NDDF, told The Financial Express.

She also said neither the industry people nor the government want substandard dairy products, contaminated with antibiotics or detergents.

"We have to find out a solution for ensuring supply of safe dairy items in the market," she added.

According to the industry insiders, repeated findings of antibiotics, lead, and other harmful chemicals in pasteurised milk products have battered confidence of the consumers, dragging down the sales volume of different milk brands.

The industry experienced a major jolt in February when the National Food Safety Laboratory (NFSL) found high levels of microbial contaminants in samples of dairy products.

The NFSL, in a survey, conducted with the support of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), collected the samples of all packet milk brands from large food stores and directly from dairy farms.

The organisation found the presence of pesticides, tetracycline, enrofloxacin, ciprocin, lead, chromium and aflatoxin up to the range of 96 per cent in the milk products, which can create serious health hazards, according to healthcare professionals.

The NFSL survey caused serious damage to the reputation of local milk industry, as its findings created a lot of buzz in both mainstream and social media, leading to a plunge in sales of milk in the market.

Later, the survey prompted the High Court to ask the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) to test dairy products, and submit the result to the court.

Meanwhile, a research team of the Dhaka University (DU), led by Professor Dr A B M Faroque, conducted two separate tests within a month, and found presence of antibiotics in at least five major milk brands of the country.

Dr Faroque first revealed the findings in a press conference on June 23, and again in a press statement on July 13.

The discovery of antibiotics in milk by Dr Faroque's tests came as the latest blow to the milk industry, as it made the consumers further repulsive towards pasteurised packet milk.

Deputy General Manager of the Akij Food and Beverage Ltd Mohammad Ali Amzad Khan said the test results and concurrent media reports have hit their sales badly.

"No company is collecting expected quantity of milk from farmers now, although it is the high time of milk production."

If one company supplies good milk in the market, it will not bring any positive result in the present volatile situation.

"Now the industry needs combined efforts to bring back confidence of the customers," he opined.

The Akij Food's Farm Fresh was one of the seven milk brands, tested by the DU Biomedical Research Centre and laboratories.

The Akij Food Assistant General Manager (quality control) M M Iqbal Hossain said they maintain the highest level of quality control procedure in their total process - from collecting milk to packaging.

"Despite all our efforts, if harmful components contaminate our milk production system, we want to address it."

"To improve the system, we sought test results from Dr Faroque. Even after several correspondences and requests by meeting him personally from June 26 to Sunday (July 21), he has not given us the test results."

He further said the dairy items producers welcome efforts by any individual or organisation to improve their production system.

Dairy farming expanded fast across the country during the last seven-eight years. As a result, local milk production soared to 9.4 million tonnes in fiscal year (FY) 2018-19 from 2.9 million tonnes in FY 2010-11, according to industry sources.

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