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Is it milk of human unkindness?

7 August 2013 07:33 pm - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


The 16-billion-dollar dairy giant Fonterra is under the global spotlight following the alleged contamination of its milk powder products with Dicyandiamide (DCD), and also the Botulinum toxin which causes Botulism, a disease which is fatal or causes paralysis and is produced by the Clostridium Bacterium.
Seeing as such health concerns are raised as a result of this alleged contamination, it comes as no surprise that the common Sri Lankan citizen has a right to be notified that his next cup of milk tea may or may not be safe to drink.

 However, this was not the viewpoint of the Health Ministry which felt it pertinent to leave the public in the dark about this issue and adopted a complacent approach even when the report confirming the existence of DCD was intimated to the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA).

Despite the GMOA’s efforts to bring attention to this finding, the Health Ministry’s stratergy in defence of the exporting companies warranted elaborate assurances of the milk being safe for consumption and that there is ‘no need to panic’.

The Ministry said this while rejecting the report produced by the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) which confirmed the existence of DCD and further stated that the initial suspension of clearance of milk powder was said to be a mere precautionary measure.

The Ministry ignored the report submitted by the state agency and insisted upon the findings of a test conducted in Thailand which was specifically performed to detect the Botulinum toxin and not DCD.

 Fonterra official claims that DCD in minute quantities was less harmful to a person than table salt was strongly refuted by Minister of Technology, Research and Atomic Energy Patali Champika Ranawaka who claimed it to be a flagrant violation of the law to promote such products.

The situation escalated with China-the world’s largest importer of infant formula- and Russia banning milk powder from their markets relying on confirmed reports that the whey protein concentrate imported by them was contaminated with the toxin likely to cause Botulism.

Fonterra CEO, Theo Spierings made an immediate apology following this sequence of events, having realised the gravity of the situation.

The public awareness on processed foods and products remains at a woeful minimum in Sri Lanka, where it requires a front page headline to educate the people on what they are in fact consuming. This being an exceptional circumstance is thus perhaps excusable as it is not a daily occurrence. How much then do we consume without knowledge of unpublicised contaminations?

Eminent medical officers at a news briefing themed “poisonous food paves the way for a silent death” have pledged to provide an appropriate answer. The medical officials collectively reiterated that ultra-processed foods and genetically modified foods carry similar risks, yet completely escape the attention of the public eye.
A further issue addressed at this meeting was the threat posed to consumer protection at the hand of unfair influence exercised by global corporate conglomerates that rely on their seemingly endless financial reservoirs to absolve themselves of such health violations at the expense of the helpless consumer.

 Elaborating on the issue of the ban on imported milk which has been shrouded in controversy, member of the Government Medical Officer’s Association (GMOA) Dr. Nalinda Herath took the liberty of setting the record straight of some common misconceptions regarding this matter.

 Contrary to reports that Dicyandiamide (DCD) could be an operative cause of Botulism, a disease which could cause paralysis, Dr. Herath clarified that there was no such connection and two separate tests would have to be administered to identify DCD and the Botilinum Toxin which is the cause of Botulism, a sometimes fatal paralytic illness.

 Dr. Herath said that once the GMOA received a report from the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) on the discovery of DCD in imported milk powder, immediately it held a meeting to address and resolve the issue and was startled by the response of the Ministry of Health.

" The Health Ministry completely ignored the ITI report and kept making reference to the results of the tests conducted in Thailand."

 “The Health Ministry completely ignored the ITI report and kept making reference to the results of the tests conducted in Thailand.

 That test was taken to find the botilinum toxin and was never proven. Only after we wrote a letter to the Ministry of Health did the Director General of Health Services ban the milk powder, and that too based on the botulism test, not the DCD test.

The Health Minister requested not to have any media statements without his permission, perhaps because he was embarrassed to admit that the ITI report was right,” he said.


The people of this country have been suffering from various diseases out of which Kidney diseases are the most common. Cancer, heart diseases and many such diseases are now commonplace among the masses of this country. It is pertinent to inquire into the causes of such diseases. It is of paramount importance to inquire as to the impact chemical additives used in making food and processing food has on the roots of these diseases.

The recent controversy regarding milk powder which contains DCD was first pronounced by the ITI. However, these findings were rejected initially and the companies concerned said that we are trying to portray something that is not true. We, however, stand by these findings and are willing to openly debate anyone or any authority regarding the findings of the ITI.

"We are speaking on behalf of the common masses, the population of this country who will suffer for generations as a result of the actions of the corporations and those who protect it"

It is clear that Anchor and Maliban milk contain DCD and everyone who is trying to cover this up or promoting the agendas of these companies is committing a heinous crime on the population of this country.
Many people have also said that we are trying to further a political ideology through this by way of trying to help local businesses. But there is no such agenda for us, we have our political ideologies but this is devoid of any such agenda.

We are speaking on behalf of the common masses, the population of this country who will suffer for generations as a result of the actions of the corporations and those who protect it.

Now China, Russia and other countries have banned certain products from these companies. We fear that these products might be brought and dumped on our innocent consumers. This is neither a political problem nor a professional issue but it’s the truth.

There is the Food act and the Consumer Affairs Authorities Act which clearly specify that it is an offence to promote, import or sell anything which is harmful to the health of the consumer- and even in this instance it is a blatant violation of the act.

Most types of food must be processed to a certain extent if it is to be made fit for human consumption and to make digestible, however, this must be within reasonable constraints asserted Dr. Damayanthi Perera, while condemning the grave risks posed by Ultra Processed (UP) Foods and Genetically Modified (GM) foods.
 Highlighting the potential harms caused by these products, Dr. Perera pointed out that even in the extensive scrutiny processes; these products undergo veritable red flags as far as safety is concerned.
 “Some of these milk products are tested 300 times. If something needs to be tested that many times then it should not be consumed”.

Dr. Perera stated that the harmfulness of these products  was seldom brought to the attention of the consumer as a result of tactful advertising campaigns which depict the product to not only be safe but favourable for consumption.

“Some of these milk products are tested 300 times. If something needs to be tested that many times then it should not be consumed”.

“The advertisement culture should have a limit. In reality, it is nothing more than a ‘white collar bribe’ to promote substandard products,” she said.

Speaking further on the role played by corporate giants in infringing consumer safety, Dr. Perera observed that multimillion dollar industries would  invariably escape the full weight of liability to be borne even in the event of a violation.

 “Cadbury Chocolates in Britain contained ‘salmonella bacteria’ which is a germ found in our feces. However, Cadbury was asked to pay a meagre fine and was not made fully liable. So in light of these events, how do we as consumers protect ourselves?”

In answer to this question, Dr. Perera said that we as Sri Lankans in order to combat a corporate bully need not look further than our local produce.

 “Lessening our demand and dependency on imported products is necessary, and we must deviate from this ‘brand’ or ‘branding’ culture and realise that the safest products are natural produces. There are pleas from the American people themselves asking for pasteurized milk as opposed to processed milk.”

DCD is applied as a fine particle suspension spray to grazed pastures to control nitrogen losses from cow urine patches. Here are some other DCD facts:
  • DCD is short for dicyandiamide (DCD) and was developed about 30 years ago.
  • Since 2004, New Zealand farmers have used DCD to reduce their environmental footprint by slowing the rate that soil bacteria convert ammonia into nitrate and nitrous oxide.
  • Other countries also use DCD in cropping by applying it to nitrogen fertilizer.
  • DCD is a nitrification inhibitor which the dairy industry uses to reduce nitrate leaching into waterways and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The NZ Ministry for Primary Industries recognises DCD as an effective technology for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
  • DCD is completely biodegradable in soil and leaves no residues in soil. It is not applied in the NZ summer months, but just before times of high drainage in autumn, winter and spring.
  •  DCD is also a mitigation technology that has been incorporated into New Zealand’s annual greenhouse gas inventory submitted annually to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Botulinum toxin is a protein and neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. It is the most acutely toxic substance yet known.

Botulinum toxin can cause botulism; a serious and life-threatening illness in humans and animals. The clinical syndrome of botulism can occur following ingestion of contaminated food, from colonisation of the infant gastrointestinal tract, or from a wound infection.

The issue is about whey protein and we want to make it clear that Fonterra Sri Lanka does not import any food which contains whey protein to Sri Lanka. All our products therefore are safe for consumers. We still stand by the test results regarding DCD in which it was specifically proved that our products do not contain DCD. The tests were carried out according to international research practices, and were done according to the directive of the Ministry of Health. Therefore, our products have been cleared and there is nothing for the local consumer to worry about when using our products. We have throughout our years in business adhered to the guidelines, directives and all other such arrangements given by the Ministry of Health and we will give them all necessary assistance and adhere to their guidelines.

"We have throughout our years in business adhered to the guidelines, directives and all other such
arrangements given by the Ministry of Health"


A fresh milk campaign is due to start within the next month; this is to be conducted with the collective efforts of the Agriculture Ministry, Economic Development Ministry the Health Ministry and the GMOA. The Health Minister is supportive of this campaign and even agreed to the GMOA’s further request to incorporate a Toxicology Centre in the Health Ministry itself.”

  Comments - 2

  • nihal Thursday, 08 August 2013 08:10 AM

    if a white couriered fair skinned foreign beautician in fashioned advertisement tells us to drink us poison, will do it...that's how this ad-business have changed our mind set.

    padmasiri Friday, 09 August 2013 10:19 AM

    Don't worry be happy "adambarakara Thaththa" is there to protect you.

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