Experts: Scrutinise milk packaging and storing methods
Improper packaging and storage may have caused contamination in milk, say health and nutrition experts when commenting on the front-page report by The Malay Mail yesterday on the suspension of the 1Malaysia free milk programme.
The suspension, merely four days after the programme was rolled out by the Education Ministry, came in the wake of 29 primary students of SK Rahman Putra in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, allegedly falling ill on Monday after consuming milk distributed under the programme.
Primary care practitioner Dr Koh Khar Chai said milk packaging and distribution needed to be re-looked, as this was vital towards ensuring the process is contamination-free.
“We need to know how the milk was processed and packaged, whether it was hygienic as well as whether the storage of milk was well taken care of,” Dr Koh told The Paper That Cares.
The same view was expressed by Malaysian Medical Association (Federal Territory) chairman Dr Azizan Abd Aziz.
“There is a need to ensure milk is stored at the right temperature as failure to do so would allow micro-organisms multiply. Milk is one medium where such micro-organisms could do so at a faster and higher rate,” said Dr Azizan.
Both Dr Koh and Dr Azizan ruled out the possibility that the 29 primary students fell ill due to allergies, as that would be too much of a coincidence.
Contaminated milk might result in less severe reaction in adults, but children have a lower immune system and can be prone to worse reactions, they said.
Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Puad Zarkashi had told The Malay Mail the milk programme was suspended upon the Health Ministry’s advice, and also to facilitate investigation into the case.
The Malay Mail had reported that persistent problems resulted in the government having to change its initial aim of providing free milk to all school children, and instead only students from poor families would be eligible for the programme.
This was not the first time the school milk programme has been suspended due to health concerns. Initiated in 1983, it was temporarily suspended on May 22, 2007, to allow investigations into milk contamination after a spate of food poisoning among students.