ISLAMABAD – Two weeks following the announcement of a global recall of a highly injurious baby formula, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) finally issued a notification to stop the marketing of said formula and directed two local companies to recall it from the market.
France has banned the sale of and ordered a recall of several baby formula milk and baby food products made by French dairy giant Lactalis after the discovery of salmonella bacteria. These products were manufactured by Lactalis group and marketed in Pakistan by M/s PharmEvo with brand name of Celia. By M/s Indus Pharma the product was marketed with the brand name of Gromore.
Infection by salmonella can result in prolonged diarrhoea and abdomen diseases in infants. The French company recalled all consignments globally and ordered to pay compensation to users believed mostly to be in 7 countries, including Pakistan.
As DRAP did not identify the two local suppliers, this appears to be an attempt to protect the suppliers or the marketing companies who should have been made to follow the French procedure and issue recall of the product from the market and pay compensation to those who had consumed the contaminated powder milk.
What’s interesting is, that the French government took this action on December 1st, and it was widely covered by prominent international news media including CNN and BBC, to recall the contaminated milk, but the product marketing continued in Pakistan until December 13th, for approximately two more weeks.
A statement issued by DRAP yesterday said that the author issued a public advisory on the use of Celia and Gromore products on the event of the global recall of few implicated batches by the principal manufacturer and importers as informed by the World Health Organization. These particular batches, according to DRAP, were recommended for use in lactose intolerant infants.
“Pursuant to the global recall, the recall process has been nitiated in collaboration with all provincial governments and the capital administration, who were advised to monitor the recall process through their surveillance force.”
In developed countries, commissions are formed immediately in the event of such a crisis, and the commission directs the companies to deposit the amount which was to be paid to the consumers as compensation. Unfortunately, in Pakistan regulatory authorities do not take note of contaminated medicines and edible items with equal levels of urgency.
According to an insider official of DRAP who wishes to remain anonymous, the advisory was issued in this instance only because the international media has been reporting that the powdered milk continues to be supplied in Pakistan. Therefore, it appears that the advisory has been issued to satisfy the French company, and the marketing companies have not been directed to launch a media campaign to apologise to the consumers along with pictures of the procedure.
Consumers have also not been advised to file cases seeking compensations, which means the marketing companies will get the amount of the product which is already sold in the market from the French company. The marketing companies will also demand the amount for the disposal of the product from the French manufacturer but will not pay any compensation to the consumers in Pakistan.
The Islamabad Capital Territory has thusly been the first to direct the city pharmacies to immediately stop the sale of contaminated infant milk. As per the notification issued by ICT Inspector of Drugs, all pharmacies have been alerted regarding contamination of infant milk with Salmonella bacteria.
The notification stated “This is with reference to the INFOSAN Secretariat information regarding an outbreak of Salmonella infection in France among infants less than 6 months of age caused by lactose free milk products”.
The notification had been conveyed by Drug Regularity Authority and Pakistan (DRAP).
The notification addressing the pharmacies said “In view of the above, you are requested to convey to all the sale outlets operating in the territorial jurisdiction of Islamabad (preferably using quick mode like whatsapp or others) to immediately stop the sale of the implicated batches of above referred products and intimate this office regarding the recall of batches by the concerned manufacturers”.