Tainted brand milk still on sales
Tainted milk powder brands are still on sales in stores in Dhaka and other major cities as the weekend comes as a good excuse for the government to delay execution of a court order.
The High Court on Thursday ordered the government to take immediate action to stop display and sales of eight milk brands, tested melamine positive.
The order followed a public interest litigation filed amid a heightened nationwide health care as a Dhaka University test found industrial chemical melamine in eight major-selling milk brands sourced from China, Denmark, New Zealand and Australia.
The baby formulas in question are Yashili 1, Yashili 2 and Sweet Baby sourced from China, Dano from Denmark, Red Cow and Diploma from Australia, and Nido Fortified Instant and Anlene from New Zealand.
Hours after the delivery of the court order, acting commerce secretary Ghulam Mustakim Thursday evening said they would take a decision on eight milk powder brands only after it ‘officially’ got the copy of the High Court ruling in hand. He declined to say what the government would do since the copy of the court order was unlikely to reach the ministry before Sunday because of the two-day weekend.
The counsels of the petitioners, on whose writ petition the High Court issued the directive, said they conveyed to the respondents on Friday the High Court’s order issuing a certificate.
The certificate, addressed to the inspector general of police, was handed over to his personal staff at his house in the afternoon, said the writ petitioner’s counsel Manzill Murshid.
He also mentioned that certificates were also issued to the home, finance and commerce secretaries, National Board of Revenue chairman, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission chairman and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution director general, who were ordered by the High Court to enforce the ban until further test reports from home and abroad found the milk brands melamine-free.
The certificates were sent to them by fax message in the afternoon Friday, the first day of the weekend.
IGP Nur Mohammad told New Age Friday evening that he had received an envelope, but did not open it since it was a public holiday.
Asked about the implementation of the High Court directive, the police chief said that the police, if asked, would assist the authorities concerned in implementing the directives.
A senior official of the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, seeking anonymity, said that their lawyer informed them about the High Court ruling, but no action could be taken since it was a holiday and no copy of the directive was available to the institution.
Meanwhile, the banned eight brands were seen on display at the shelves of stores across the country including those in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Barisal and Sylhet.
Most of the shopkeepers said that they were not aware of the High Court order, while others said that they did not remove the brands from shelves as none asked them to do so.
Some shopkeepers in Dhaka were prompted to remove the disputed brands from their shelves following the High Court ban and upon advice from distributors of Nido and Dano brands.
The owner of Ananda Stores on Sir Iqbal Road in Khulna, Ananda Saha, on the other hand, said the distributors of Nido on Friday visited the shop and requested him to continue with the display and sales of the brand showing newspaper advertisements that claimed the brand was melamine-free.
The shopkeepers, however, said the sales of the eight brands, and other brands of powdered milk as well, came almost to a halt, while market sources claimed that the brands in question were being sold out to bakeries, confectioners and sweetmeat makers.
Many shop owners in Dhaka were found caught in a dilemma on Friday about what to do with the milk brands in stock as a High Court order was there but the government action was missing.
A shopkeeper at the city’s Moulvibazar commodity wholesale market, Momen Ali said they did not see any problem in keeping the brands on display, as they neither got any copy of the High court order nor any directive from the government and the companies concerned.
Momen Ali, however, said that he had purchased Dano milk at Tk 545-550 per kg and was trying to sell them to restaurants at cheaper price to offset some of the loss.
Another trader Mintu of Karwanbazaar area said, ‘Now we have a milk power stock of about Tk 20,000, but the companies so far did not give any assurance to recall the products and repay the money.’
The consumers would have to buy the milk brands at their own risk, said Abu Taher, a trader in the New Market area.
Most of the grocery shops in Chittagong continued to display and sell the tainted brands as of Friday.
Sources at different kitchen markets in the port city, including Reazuddin Bazar, Karnaphuli Market, Kazir Dewri Bazar, Chawkbazar, Bahadderhat, Faillatoli Bazar, Barapul Bazar and Nalapara Bazar, said no administrative measure was seen to remove the milk powder from the market in line with the court directive.
Market sources said people, still unaware of or indifferent to melamine hazards, continued to buy the tainted milk powder to feed their babies.
Mohammed Nizamuddin, proprietor of Hoque Traders at the Karnaphuli Market, said he continued to display the banned brands, as he was not aware of the court order. ‘You will get the milk powder of the brands at every shop in the market,’ he added.
Most of the shops in Sylhet were seen displaying the disputed milk brands on Friday, while those disappeared from the shelves of a few shops.
A shop owner at Jindabazar in Sylhet said he removed the brands from the shelf following the High Court order. But sales were going on from secret stocks, though the sales were very low, he admitted.
New Age correspondent from Barisal reports, most of the tinned and packed milk brands, tested melamine positive, were on sales in the city stores. But traders reported sharp declines in sales as test results and High Court order scared customers off.
‘Milk sales in my shop declined to less than Tk 2,000 a day now from an average daily turnover of Tk 10,000 before the melamine scandal surfaced,’ said Khokan Saha, a wholesaler in Barisal.
Our Rajshahi correspondent adds, traders in the city were selling banned eight brands both in retail and wholesale shops until Friday.
Traders said they were yet to get any announcements from the companies concerned whether or not to sell those milk powder brands.
Shops at Saheb Bazar, New Market, Upashahar New Market and RDA Market are found selling the banned brands openly.
Salahuddin Ahmed, an employee of Ruchita Confectionary in the city, said that they were selling the brands as none so far asked them to stop the sales.
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