Letters

Health hazard owing to widespread use of antibiotics: Why is BSTI playing ducks and drakes?

Dear Editor:
It was good to leran that the High Court expressed serious dissatisfaction on June 24, 2019 at the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution’s (BSTI) statement where it claimed that the institution had no responsibility over the companies producing and supplying pasteurized milk and curd without any licence. “We are astonished at your statement. Who has given you the right to play ducks and drakes with the people’s health? They have no license, but they are producing and supplying milk! Who is responsible for looking into it?” the HC bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam and Justice K M Hafizul Alam put the questions while hearing a suomoto rule.
The bench made the comments to BSTI’s lawyer Barrister Sarkar M R Hassan and Deputy Director Nurul Islam when they told the court that BSTI looks into the matters of only 18 companies which were given license for producing and supplying pasteurized milk and curd. The BSTI lawyer replied that the department of agriculture extension and the ministry of livestock and fisheries are responsible for taking steps about the companies with no license. However, Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) lawyer Advocate Syed Mamun Mahbub and Deputy Attorney General AKM Amin Uddin Manik opposed this statement, saying the BSTI is empowered by law to take action against the companies and dairy farms which have no license. The BSTI is diverting the responsibility to others, they said, adding that the court needs to be rigid on this issue.
The HC bench then ordered the BSTI to submit a report with the particulars of the companies and farms that are producing and supplying milk and curd in Dhaka with and without having a valid license within two weeks. The HC bench also asked the concerned government organisations not to disturb Prof Shahnila Ferdousi, head of National Food Safety Laboratory (NFSL), over its study report. The NFSL, in its study report, said it found the presence of excessive levels of lead and pesticides in raw cow milk, regular consumption of which may pose threats to human health. The study also found high level of chromium in fodder and excessive presence of pesticides, antibiotics and bacteria in raw cow milk.
Shahnila’s lawyer Barrister Shahin Ahmed told the court that a number of government agencies had been pressing her client for the names of the companies producing adulterated raw cow milk and curd. Contacted, Prof Shahnila told The Daily Star that the study was originally conducted for research purpose and she was not supposed to reveal all the details of the study to any agency or individual. Besides, taking any punitive action against any company based on this study would be a mistake, she added.
Here I may refer to the article by Najmul A. Khan (Health Hazard of Widespread Use of Antibiotics and Bacterial Resistance, published in the Holiday). The major cause behind antibiotic resistance revolves around the smartness of the bacteria. It is widely believed that antibiotics inhibit the growth of susceptible bacteria. But bacteria can acquire resistance through mutation and thus defend themselves, if antibiotics are taken abundantly. For survival, bacteria are constantly finding resistance mechanisms to avoid the effects of antibiotics. This was the observation of Dr. Samir K Saha, Professor of Microbiology, Dhaka Shishu (Children) Hospital.
K M Abul Hasnat
Sadarghat, Chittagong

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