Imported milk powder: tug-of-war continues | Sunday Observer

Imported milk powder: tug-of-war continues

Cow’s milk still offers better nutritional benefits than  alternatives, say nutritionists    -Getty images
Cow’s milk still offers better nutritional benefits than alternatives, say nutritionists-Getty images

Importers of branded powdered milk have to follow a strict protocol when bringing in the product into the country, an industry source told the Sunday Observer, in reply to the allegations of imported powdered milk containing pig fat, palm oil and other harmful chemicals unsuitable for human consumption.

The official representing branded milk powder importers, said they feel badly let down by the allegations levelled against them stating that their products do not contain substances that are harmful for human consumption.

“There is a strict protocol to follow when milk powder is imported in to the country. There are several tests to check the product before it is released into the market,” he said.

The representative said that such allegations are made from time to time. “All branded importers are of the view that an investigation needs to be carried out into the issue because it has caused extreme confusion among consumers,” he said.

He added that these tests can be conducted easily.

Echoing his views Assistant Secretary of the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) Dr. Naveen De Soyza said that the authorities concerned have to take immediate action to expedite the tests conducted into the current imported powdered milk issue in the country. He said a large portion of the country’s population consumes imported powdered milk, and the government has the responsibility of resolving the issue soon. The Additional Secretary was referring to the allegations made by Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Buddhika Pathirana in Parliament early this week saying that imported powdered milk sold in the market contains pig fat, palm oil and other harmful chemicals that are unsuitable for human consumption.

His allegation prompted several parliamentarians to demand the appointment of a Parliament Select Committee to look into the matter.

In response, the Leader of the House, Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament a report from the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) is required before appointing the committee.

GMOA’s Dr. Soyza claimed that the CAA does not process sufficient equipment and technology to check if milk power contained such harmful substances. He said the authority has to be provided with the necessities to carry out the investigation.

During his speech in Parliament, Deputy Minister Pathirana revealed the CAA had previously given powdered milk samples to a private company to test for harmful chemicals but this company had refused to carry out the requested tests.

“I think this private company was bribed by the dairy companies which import powdered milk,” he said.

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne denied that the imported powdered milk contained any harmful substances. He promised to table reports of tests conducted on the food item in parliament to prove that it was safe for consumption.

Fonterra Brands Lanka, a large scale powered milk importer, issued a statement denying the allegations “All our milk powder products are safe and contain only what is listed on the ingredient labels.

“Our milk powder meets the highest international food safety and quality standards and are independently tested by the New Zealand and Sri Lanka Governments,” the statement read. The Consumer Rights Movement (CRM) demanded a National Food Policy to curb the prevailing issue on food items containing substances that are harmful for human consumption.

“A total of 207 metric tons of powdered milk is consumed by the public daily. As Sri Lankans we are used to consuming several cups of tea with milk per day,” CRM’s Chairman Ranjith Vithanage said.

He said there is a tug-of-war between the accusers and the accused. “We do not know who to believe. A proper investigation needs to be carried out into this issue immediately.”


GMOA recommendations to solve alleged imported powdered milk problem

1. Consume liquid milk instead of powdered milk.

2. Strengthen the powers of the Director General,

Health Ministry by entrusting him with the Nutrition Division.

3. Establish a body to examine nutritional value in food.

4. Establish a health nutrition service across the country.

5. Establish a unit to analyse harmful chemicals included in food.

6. Strengthen laws and policies concerning food campaigns.

7. Increase the number of food testing laboratories.

8. Analyse the link between the increase in non-communicable diseases

and the consumption of food.

9. Set up an operational unit to provide breast milk for

children instead of powdered milk.

10. Implement programs on healthily food.