A joint committee of experts announced on Tuesday that there was no evidence suggesting that students who were hospitalized after drinking milk handed out to students as part of the government's free milk project were poisoned due to contaminated milk.
In a written statement released on Tuesday, the committee of experts, which was established jointly by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, said samples of the milk given to students were taken to labs for comprehensive physical, chemical and microbiological analysis.
The statement said the results of the tests showed there were no pathogenic microorganisms or bacterial toxins in the milk samples and that there was no problem in going ahead with the school milk project.
The committee also stated that the milk was found to contain essential nutrients for people of various age groups and to be rich in high-quality protein, fats, lactose, calcium, phosphorus and riboflavin.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry excluded a company that provided milk to students in Sivas province from the school milk project because milk samples taken from this province were not found to be sterile, as the test results showed it contained saprophytic organisms.
“In conclusion, considering the insufficient consumption of milk in Turkey, the free milk project will help raise a healthier generation of school children and reduce health problems stemming from malnutrition,” the statement said.
Some 1,000 students from schools in the provinces of Adana, Edirne, Kırıkkale, Diyarbakır, Samsun, Sakarya and Sivas were hospitalized last week after drinking milk provided via the government's free milk program. The milk was suspected of being contaminated. However, Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker, Education Minister Ömer Dinçer and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç dismissed claims of milk poisoning, saying the students were hospitalized for having milk allergies or related conditions.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said he is not in favor of stopping the project despite the recent setback, noting that an allergic reaction diagnosis had been determined as regards school children who were hospitalized after drinking the milk.
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.