The High Court Division in a suo moto rule on Sunday directed the owners of all the 14 authorised pasteurised milk companies to refrain from producing, distributing and selling their milk for five weeks as their milk was found to be contaminated with banned antibiotics and lead.
A bench of Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed and Justice Md Iqbal Kabir in the order directed the government to ensure that none purchased or consumed pasteurised milk of these companies.
The bench in the rule also directed the owners of the companies to explain within five weeks why contaminating and adulterating pasteurised milk with antibiotics and heavy metal would not be declared as ‘illegal’ and violation of citizens’ fundamental rights enshrined in Articles15, 18 and 31of the Constitution.
The owners of the companies were also asked to explain why they would not be directed immediately to rectify their products individually or collectively.
The companies include Milk Vita brand of state-run Bangladesh Milk Producers’ Co-Operative Union Limited., Pran Milk brand of Pran Dairy Limited, Aarong brand of brac dairy and food project, Farm Fresh brand of Akij Food & Beverage Limited, Igloo brand of Igloo Dairy Limited, Aftab Milk & Milk Product Limited, Milk Fresh brand of Uttar Banga Dairy, Dairy Fresh brand of Baro Awlia Dairy Milk & Foods Limited, MOO of American Dairy Limited, Ayran brand of Danish Dairy Limited, Pura brand of Ichamoti Dairy and Food Products, Ultra brand of Shelaidah Dairy, Safe brand of Tania Dairy and Food Products and Arwa brand of Purbo Bangla Dairy Food Industries.
The bench set August 25 for the next hearing on the issue.
The bench issued the directives after accepting separate lab reports of the Institute of Public Health, Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission which detected presence of antibiotics and heavy metal (lead) in the samples of milk of the companies.
The court expressed serious concern over the test reports prepared in compliance with its directive issued on July 15 while hearing a public interest litigation writ petition filed by lawyer Tanvir Ahmed in 2018.
Aneek R Haque appearing for the writ petitioner submitted that the law banned using antibiotics and steroids with cattle feeds.
The IPH detected presence of Tetracycline, Oxytetracycline, Chlortetracycline, Ciprofloxacin and enrofloxacin in all the samples of the milk.
The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission found presence of heavy metal in all the samples while BSCIR found antibiotics and formalin in five milk samples.
The Atomic Energy Commission carried out the test on request from the National Food Safety Authority.
The bench had ordered Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution to get the samples of the 14 companies examined by four laboratories after BSTI had submitted at a previous hearing that it lacked the capacity to detect antibiotic, bacteria, including coliform and staphylococci, antibiotics and detergents in pasteurised milk as Dhaka University pharmacy faculty and Biomedical Research Centre found while testing and retesting the pasteurized milk samples.
The fresh tests was ordered by the court after the BSTI, the government and the 14 dairy firms expressed doubts on the credibility of the tests done by DU faculty of pharmacy.
On July 16, another bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Chowdhury and Justice KM Hafizul Alam while hearing suo moto rule on the same issue, banned administering antibiotics to cows without vets’ prescriptions after the IPH found antibiotics in the pasteurized milk samples of 31 dairy firms.
The court had issued the ban after antibiotics and lead were found in cow milk.
The test reports were submitted by the National Food Safety Authority to comply the court’s directive.
The court hears the matter today.