The customs authorities have detected presence of harmful substances such as chemicals, residues or deadly agents that pose threat to public health and pork wastes in meat and bone meal (MBM) which was illegally imported for use as fish and poultry feed.
As Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country, the presence of pork wastes in the MBM is very sensitive and a serious offence, and all measures have been taken to stop illegal import of theses goods, officials concerned have said.
In many parts of the world, MBM is no longer allowed in poultry feed. The EU banned it in 1994, India in 2001 and Thailand in 2017.
In January this year, Bangladesh Food Safety Authority and the fisheries and livestock ministry banned import and sale of meat and bone meal citing its health risks for both human and livestock.
Since the imports of MBM feed is banned, some errant importers may have imported MBM through false declaration, they say.
MBM is imported as powder made from bones of animals, including cow and goat, along with a small amount of meat that remains with the bones.
“As per the rules, fish and poultry feeds will not be allowed if there is presence of bone and meat. Checking some consignments, we became suspicious and seized them for test to be sure,” Fakhrul Alam, commissioner of Chittagong Customs House, told Dhaka Tribune.
“In the test report, we detected presence of bone and meat of goat and cow and waste of pork in some of the consignments. We seized the goods,” said Fakhrul.
In last two and a half months, Audit Investigation and Research (AIR) section of Chittagong Customs House seized 18 consignments totaling 3112 tons of MBM.
Primarily, all the goods were seized, and investigations were launched against the errant importers, Fakhrul informed, adding that punitive action would be taken based on the findings.
“We are on the alert so that no such banned items can enter the country. We have served show-cause notices on the errant enterprises and lodged departmental cases against them,” said the commissioner.
Why MBM banned
Illegally imported MBM contains toxic chemicals such as chromium and by-products of swine, and consumption of theses feeds can cause humans deadly diseases, like cancer and mad cow diseases, livestock experts have said.
MBM also can cause anthrax, antibiotic resistance, and even cancer, they say.
“There are substantial debates about importing MBM which might include pork’s substances. This is highly sensitive in a Muslim majority country. On the other side, there are many research publications and media reporting on the significant adverse impact of MBM on human body,” Ishtiaq Ahmed, CEO, Kazi Farms Group (Feed Business), told Dhaka Tribune.
All these factors significantly undermined the confidence of the consumers in poultry broiler meats, he said, adding that as a consequence, farmers and all relevant organizations in poultry industry would be badly affected.
“Since Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country, Kazi Farms does not use MBM to ensure halal and risk-free egg and chicken production,” Ishtiaq assured.
The regulatory bodies should ensure very strict disciplinary actions against all importers responsible for importing MBM under a different name tags and format, he said.
The poultry industry had a very high potential in Bangladesh and most affordable source of protein, so the policymakers should take visionary steps to address all these critical issues, he added.
MBM is a product of the rendering industry. It has typically about 48–52% protein, 33–35% ash, 8–12% fat, and 4–7% water.
“MBM is primarily used in the formulation of animal feed to improve the amino acid profile of the feed. MBM, a protein concentrate for poultry, comes in powder form, and is made from bones of animals, including cow and goat and the small amount of meat attached to bones,” Tanvir Haider Chaudhury, chief executive officer of Kazi Food Industries, has told Dhaka Tribune.
MBM is now considered a risky element in poultry feed because it can carry harmful virus, bacteria and other ingredients that may adversely affect human and animal health, adds Tanvir.
It may contain toxic chemicals, harmful residues, deadly agents and heavy deposition of chromium, which could expose humans to serious health hazards when they consume the meat of animals taking such feed, Tanvir observes.
Products that are made from the poultry or livestock that are fed MBM also carry the hazardous elements that MBM contains and these elements in turn are transferred to the human body in the event of the consumption of these products, he adds.
“MBM can spread diseases like mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. So, the government has banned the imports and sales of MBM as a precautionary measures to prevent spread of these diseases,” District Livestock Officer (in Chittagong) Md Reajul Huq told Dhaka Tribune.
He also suggested using fish meals and vegetable meals in the poultry feed instead of MBM.
SM Nazer Hossain, central vice president of Consumers Association Bangladesh (CAB), called for taking stern actions against the errant importers and C&F agents involved with bringing in MBM.
“Because of the health risks for human and livestock, the government has banned import and sale of MBM after unearthing import of low-grade MBM through false declaration. The errant enterprises should be slapped with a hefty fine and licence should be canceled. Otherwise, the malpractice will continue unabated,” added the consumer rights activist.
Who imported MBM from where
The seized 18 consignments of MBM were brought in from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Belgium.
The errant importers are Aisha Corporation, Spectra Hexa Feeds Ltd, Promek Agro & Feed Products Ltd (Dhaka), Fishtech BD Ltd (Rajshahi), Aquatech Agro (BD) Ltd (Mymensingh), Advance Agrolek Bangladesh (Dhaka), Quality Feeds Ltd (Gazipur),RRP Agro Farm (Pabna), Inter Agro BD Ltd (Dhaka), Magnify Agro Ltd (Dhaka), Misham Agro Industries Ltd (Sirajganj),VNF Agro Ltd (Mymensingh) and MKA Hatchery (Cox’s Bazar), officials at Chittagong customs said.
Of them, Fishtech BD Ltd, Magnify Agro Ltd and RRP Agro Farm imported three, three consignments and two consignments respectively, they said.
The errant C&F agents were Bengal Liner Agencies, Asia Enterprise, Hayder Trade International, Al Fahim (BD), Shadhin Enterprise, Summit Enterprise, Bangladesh Shipping Agencies Pvt Ltd, Reliable Trading Agency and Ambe Clearing Ltd.
Non-FIAB feed producers a concern
“Imposing a ban on imports of MBM is a good decision and the sector people have appreciated it. But the government has to execute it to restore consumers’ confidence,” Feed Industries Association of Bangladesh (FIAB) Vice President Khandoker Monsur Hossain told Dhaka Tribune.
Considering the health risk, the FIAB members were not using MBM and were instead using fish meal, which was free from meat and bone as well as haram (forbidden) wastes of pork, assured Monsur.
On the other hand, the government should bring non-FIAB feed producers to book as they were the major customers of illegally imported MBM, added the sector leader.
Those who were not members of FIAB, the government should immediately shut the factories as it would hit hard the total industry, Monsur urged.
“Poultry industry is a great source of protein, which provides eggs and chicken at affordable prices. So, the regulator should monitor and execute the government decision so that the sector can grow,” he added.