It´s a scandal. It had long been known that some dairy and meat products from Nepal were tainted by antibiotics. But the sheer scale of the problem is only just beginning to emerge. It appears as much as half of all meat and dairy products available in the market could be tainted. According to the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC), half the samples of dairy products collected from Kathmandu and surrounding areas were found to be contaminated by a ‘shocking’ level of antibiotics. The study found that antibiotics levels surpass the quantity stipulated by the European Union guidelines—75 times over! In another study, the Central Food Laboratory found that 10 percent of chicken sold in Kathmandu and Tarai markets had ‘extreme’ levels of antibiotics. As much as 45 percent of chicken meat that originates from big poultry farms is a suspect.
Long term exposure to a high-level of antibiotics in meat and poultry products not only makes human bodies resistant to vital antibiotics, antibiotics overexposure has also been linked to various health problems like chronic diarrhea, skin disease, urinary infections and brain cell damage. Commercial poultry farms feed chickens heavy dose of antibiotics to keep the poultry disease-free.
Small farmers, mistakenly, tend to overdose their cattle with antibiotics to increase milk production. Many of them aren’t aware that heavy dose of antibiotics is unhealthy for targeted animals and humans—who consume milk and meat products emanating from those animals—alike. Even in the cases antibiotic may be needed, the farmers are not aware of the right dose and tend to err on the side of oversupply. Another important oversight occurs when dairy farmers do not follow the quarantine regime, a must after the administration of antibiotics to cattle.
Moreover, the hygienic practices among Nepali dairy producers are marked by their absence. For instance, if they took needed precautions, their cows would not get mastitis, the disease dairy farmers fear the most to start with. Also, the situation would not be so alarming if there was strict supervision over unauthorized sale of animal medicines. Under the current circumstances, the only option for people to keep themselves healthy seems to be avoiding all poultry and meat products. But that is hardly a pragmatic step. As we have noted in this space many times before, successive governments have failed woefully in guaranteeing the health of the people.
Our healthcare institutions are understaffed and underequipped, drugs produced in the country substandard, and the drug regulatory authorities dysfunctional. The least Nepalis can hope is that they get to eat healthy food for the big sums they are being asked to fork out. There are countless ways to improve this dismal state of affairs, which would be apparent to our government honchos if they felt a little more accountable towards the people. Unless there is a genuine political commitment to root out the ills in our healthcare and food management sectors, Nepalis are likely to keep consuming potentially dangerous food products and when they fall sick, relying on a semi-functional healthcare system for treatment