Letter: Troubling 'deja vu' over baby milk

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The Independent Online
Troubling 'deja vu' over baby milk

Sir: As the spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food instructed mothers to continue buying milk contaminated with hormone- disrupting plastic softeners, one wonders if he experienced a troubling sensation of deja vu ("Cover-up claim in baby milk chemical row", 27 May). MAFF argues that it is "determined to reduce the levels in the milk but they pose no threat". After its experience with BSE, one would expect some hesitation before declaring contaminated food safe.

In fact, MAFF does not know what threat these chemicals pose. There is evidence that humans are experiencing hormone disruption, and these chemicals are prime suspects. If babies face a dose that is even remotely close to that known to cause problems in rats, then the threat must be taken very seriously and the products removed from the shops until the contamination is traced and dealt with.

In the case of BSE, there was always a danger that infected cattle produce would reach consumers and then cause a human variety of the disease. However, the Government used the absence of evidence for a direct link (in reality a failure to look very hard) to justify its half-hearted response. With BSE, it should have eliminated the disease from British herds rather than trying to co-exist with it by imposing a series of inadequate controls. With contaminated milk, it now faces a similar dilemma. The responsible, precautionary approach would be to remove completely these milk contaminants rather than trying to persuade mothers that their babies can take it.

CLIVE BATES

London N16

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