Milk scare continues
The last few weeks saw the removal of eight brands of milk products, thought to contain melamine, from the shelves of stores and supermarkets in Dhaka and across the country. The action was propelled by mass outcry over the fear of melamine poisoning in infants and children. However, the results of the three independent studies that were carried out on milk brands in Dhaka yielded inconclusive results.
In August 2008, tests found melamine in milk products that are shelved in mainland China. The laboratory examination were performed as an overwhelming number of children in China were rushed to hospitals and health officials with problems involving the urinary tract and some reported cases of kidney stones and renal failure. In Bangladesh, however, health officials are yet to report cases of melamine related problem in children. But, the fear that looms over tainted milk is hardly over.
Speaking of symptoms for presence of melamine in children, Dr. M A Quyyum, Paediatrician and Neonatologist said that based on the cases handled by Chinese doctors, it is observed that children first complain of pain while urinating. Infants will show general discomfort. This symptom may be coupled with pain in the abdomen, and passage of blood in urine (hematuria).
Suspected cases must undergo a series of tests including renal function test, which previews the general conditions of the kidneys and an ultrasound is also suggested to reveal the presence of any renal stones.
Explaining the importance of milk in children, Dr. Quyyum, Assistant Professor, Department of Paediatrics, Uttara Women's Medical College Hospital suggested that children under the age of two, who are breastfed, require no additional milk. Weaning and breast milk are sufficient to cater for the needs of the children.
“The problem starts with children who are not breast fed and rely on artificial infant formula. Melamine can be a serious threat to these children. They are not habituated to any other staple and would tend to disapprove of any attempts to change their habits now”, says Dr. Quyyum and further adds, “We are now suggesting use of cow's milk, in dilute proportions for these children.”
“My daughter is completely refusing to take any other food except milk. And I am so scared to give her milk. I am a working mother and Shobhana hasn't been breast-fed. She is taking a little bit of khichuri, mashed bananas and some fruit juice, but seems to crave for milk.
“She has been crying day and night and was passing little urine. We took her to the doctor and she suggested some tests. But the reports were normal. The paediatrician suggested that we give her more fluid,” says Sitara, a mother of a 7 month old.
Melamine in milk products remained undetected for such a long time in China and across the globe, simply because such form of corruption was hitherto unheard of. Used to make melawares- household utensils- melamine is used in milk products to enrich the protein content. With its spectacular resemblance to milk powder, melamine in milk has been the silent killer as we see it today. Although no cases have been reported in the country, more than 13,000 Chinese children have been hospitalised, with four reported deaths.
The situation in the country remains to be seen vigilantly. The melamine scandal can be the eye opener for us all. Corruption is rampant, and children, even infants cannot escape.
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif