Gov’t dismisses food poisoning charges in free milk controversy

Gov’t dismisses food poisoning charges in free milk controversy

Ardound 7 million school children started to receive free milk every day at school on Wednesday. (Photo: Cihan)

May 03, 2012, Thursday/ 16:05:00

Speaking to deputies in Parliament on Thursday, Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker stated that not a single student among some 4,000 who were hospitalized after drinking milk provided via the government's free milk program instituted on Wednesday were hospitalized due to contaminated milk.

Eker added that the government would not allow provocations to harm this important project, which aims to improve children's health. He repeatedly mentioned that none of the hospitalized children were sent to the hospital for milk contamination but for having milk allergies or related conditions.

The agriculture minister said the milk provided to 7 million children across the country had been provided by 16 different companies. Furthermore, Health Minister Recep Akdağ told the press on Thursday that samples of the milk given to students on Wednesday were taken to labs to be tested.

The results of the tests are expected to be announced to the public on Friday.

Akdağ added that parents are now being requested to notify officials if their children have any allergies to milk or milk products via a letter schools will be sending home with students. He also said students who have allergies to milk are going to be provided with either yoghurt or ayran, a Turkish yoghurt drink.

Following the hospitalization of hundreds of schoolchildren on Wednesday, schools in the provinces of Diyarbakır, Sivas, Kırıkkale, Adıyaman and Burdur have stopped handing out free milk provided by the government. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced last month that approximately 7 million schoolchildren would be receiving free milk every day at school. “We are implementing a new program to contribute to proper nutrition for students from kindergarten to fifth grade,” he said.

Erdoğan made the announcement during a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) parliamentary meeting. “We will distribute at least 500 milliliters of long-life cartons of milk to 7,063,768 students in kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth and fifth grade every day, five days a week, in the classroom,” he said.

Erdoğan, in his announcement, drew attention to the importance of proper nutrition in a child’s development. “A malnourished child will not reach his or her full mental and physical capacity,” he said. The prime minister had also said the distribution of free milk for school children had been previously announced and that pilot studies had already been conducted.

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