GMOA tells Sirisena to act against ‘corrupt’ official

Imported milk tainted with dicyandiamide
Health Secy. asks DGHS to explain why samples were sent to foreign labs
ITI‚Äąchief stands by DCD test results, insists modern equipment was used

By Don Asoka Wijewardena

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has written to Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena urging him to suspend imports of dicyandiamide (DCD) contaminated milk food forthwith.

GMOA president Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya yesterday confirmed that he had written to Minister Sirisena. He pointed out that the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI), which was under the purview of the Science and Technology Ministry, had scientifically proved that some brands of imported milk products contained DCD and local milk products were free from the harmful substance.

Dr. Padeniya said some officials attached to the Health Ministry were indifferent to the danger of the public consuming DCD. Tests conducted by a state organisation had been ignored, but the Health Ministry had appreciated a report purportedly issued by a foreign company. It had also issued a media release that the particular milk products sold in the market were safe, the GMOA head said.

Dr. Padeniya added that the Health Ministry officials had violated the Food Act for personal gain and the ministry’s inaction would cause a grave health problem in Sri Lanka in a matter of days. "I have already sent a letter to Minister Sirisena to focus his attention on three points as soon as possible. I have urged him to take action against the officials who ignored the ITI report. The second request is to suspend the three brands of milk food until further notice and the third is to have a meeting with the

GMOA as soon as possible. What I fail to understand is why on earth the Ministry has chosen to disregard the ITI report. Why does the Ministry rely on a foreign report?"

The Health Ministry yesterday said in a media statement that 144 samples of milk food sold in Sri Lanka had been tested by laboratories in Thailand and Singapore and the results were negative.

Director General of Health Services Dr. Palitha Maheepala had instructed the Food Advisory Committee to conduct further investigations on milk food and the investigations would be done at laboratories in Thailand and Singapore, the press release said.

When The Island contacted the Industrial Technology (ITI) Head Chemical and Microbiology Laboratory Bandulasoma Wijegunasekara, he said that tests on DCD in some milk food items had been done by the ITI laboratory with the help of state-of-the-art equipment. The ITI had conducted the tests on a request by the Health Ministry and it stood by the results. "We have the modern equipment to conduct any type of laboratory investigations. We found that dicyandiamide was present in the imported milk food. We never issue false investigation reports to anyone. We are sure that the investigation report issued on dicyandiamide presence in some milk food is accurate."

Health Secretary Dr Nihal Jayathilaka, when contacted, said that he had sent a letter to Director General of Health Services Dr. Palitha Maheepala calling for the particulars of the laboratory tests conducted on milk food and asking the latter why samples had been referred to foreign laboratories. Dr. Jayathilaka said he expected all the details from DGHs, who was also the Head of the Food Advisory Committee within one week.

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