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New Fish Food Regulations


BANGLADESH - The government is set to pass a tough new law in the next session of the parliament to regulate fish and animal feed manufacturers and stop cancer-causing antibiotics being passed into the food chain, an official said.

Fisheries and livestock departments have formulated a draft Fish and Animal Feed Law, which is expected to be tabled and passed in the winter session of the house, Rafiqul Islam, director general of department of fisheries, said.

"The parliamentary standing committee on fisheries and livestock ministry has already reviewed the law. We hope it will be passed very quickly," he said.

The move came after cancer-causing toxic antibiotic, nitrofuran, was detected in Bangladeshi fresh water prawn exported to the European Union countries early this year (2009).

The EU sent back the consignments, seriously affecting the image of the country's frozen food industry and raising fear for the future of fish export from Bangladesh.

To save its face, the government promptly imposed a voluntary ban on the shipment of the particular prawn species in May this year (2009).

The ban has yet to be lifted although the frozen food exporters and farmers have declared that they have eradicated nitrofuran from the prawn food chain.

Officials blamed rogue fish feed manufacturers for passing the harmful nitrofuran into the shrimp being farmed in the country's hundreds of thousands of ponds and sweet water bodies.

"The nitrofuran scam has greatly raised awareness on the danger of shoddy fish and animal feed," said an official.

Mr Islam said the broad aim of the law is to regulate the country's scores of feed makers and importers, who very often sell sub-standard and adulterated fish and animal meals, exposing millions of people to deadly diseases like cancer.

"Presently, local feed manufacturers and suppliers are not registered and they require no licenses. Due to lack of law, some of them get away with selling poor quality feed, chemicals and antibiotics in the market," he said.

Farmers use the contaminated feed and antibiotics to fatten domestic animal and rear shrimp in the ponds or low-lying plains.

Feed ingredients they use such as protein concentrate and oil cakes were found to have been contaminated with harmful metabolites and chloramphenicol.

They also use poultry litter to fertilise ponds or as feed ingredients, which has already been detected as a major source of harmful antibiotics, such as nitrofuran, Mr Islam said.

Maksudur Rahman, vice president of Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association (BFFEA) hailed the proposed law, saying it would ensure quality of the fish being cultivated in the country.

"This kind of law is essential if we want to emerge as a leading exporter of frozen fish and animal meat. Most other fish exporting nations have already enacted such laws," he said.

Rahman, a leading shrimp exporter, said imported feed ingredients such as protein concentrates like meat and bone meal, dried shrimp and oil cake would be free from banned antibiotics after the enforcement of the law.

"Our farmers use 22-25 per cent locally produced feeds and 70-75 per cent imported feeds. But both are found to be sources of metabolites of banned nitrofurans and other hazardous chemicals," he said.

A Bangladesh Quality Support Programme (BQST) study has recently revealed that 160 kinds of shrimp, fish, poultry feed and feed ingredients are available in Khulna, Bagerhat and Jessore districts -- the main shrimp farming region of the country.

Five feed supplements and 28 chemicals are also available in the market.

The study found that 11 out of 36 shrimp feeds, 10 out of 29 fish feeds, eight out of 23 poultry feeds and nine out of 72 feed ingredients were contaminated with nitrofuran metabolites and chloramphenicol.