Tannery waste contaminating chicken feed

Bangladesh
Published:  13 August, 2014

The use of tannery waste in poultry and fish feed poses serious health risks for consumers as hazardous waste has the possibility of directly entering the food chain. Bangladesh's tanneries are notoriously polluting, exposing workers and the surrounding neighbourhood to toxic chemicals, say local media reports. 

Recent studies in Bangladesh show that poultry feed produced from industrial leather scraps may be putting the health of millions throughout the country at risk. "The whole nation is under threat as chicken and fish are the most consumed meat and also the cheapest source of animal protein," said Abul Hossain, a Chemistry Professor at the University of Dhaka, who led recent studies on how chromium, which is in tannery waste products, is transported into chicken meat. "This is extremely alarming."

According to the Bangladesh government's Department of Environment (DoE), tanneries in Hazaribagh, an industrial neighbourhood in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, emit around 22,000 cubic metres of toxic waste each day including chromium, sulphur, ammonium, and other chemicals.
The tanneries also generate as much as 100 tonnes per day of waste scraps - trimmed raw hide, flesh and fat - which are processed into feed by neighbourhood recycling plants and used in chicken and fish farms across the country.


Although the maximum recommended daily dose of chromium has not been established, a review by the European Food Safety Authority stated that a 60kg person could tolerate up to 0.25 milligrams of chromium per day. We have found chromium ranging from 350 to 4,520 micrograms [0.35 to 4.52 milligrams] per kg in different organs of chickens which were fed the tannery-scrap feed for two months," said Mr Hossain.
Cheap poultry is an important part of the diet in food-insecure Bangladesh. It accounts for 75% of the national demand for meat and provides employment opportunities in both the formal and informal livestock sectors. Poultry feed, produced from tainted industry scraps, is attractive to farmers because of its rich protein content - and it's cheap, although they are aware of the risk of these chemicals entering the food chain.

Anwar Hossain, who owns a makeshift recycling plant in Hazaribagh, explained: "We buy the raw hide scraps and shaving and buffing dust [chromium- and dye-impregnated waste products] from the tanneries, and soak them with lime before boiling them to a black-coloured paste."
He estimates there are around 60 factories like his that produce up to 30 tonnes of poultry feed per day. The demand for the scraps-made feed is overwhelming because the chickens grow very fast on this, and it is also cheap compared to other supplements available.
The production and distribution of this feed must be stopped.

In 2009, the High Court ruled that the government should relocate the tanneries outside Dhaka or close them down - which has also been ignored. "All the recycling plants are operating illegally as they do not have any licence. So this non-formal sector is difficult to regulate," said Mohammad Alamgir, monitoring and enforcement director at the DoE. After local media reported on polluted poultry feed in May 2014, the DoE shut down six recycling plants. However, an unknown number of others continue to operate. There is a murky chain behind this tannery-scrap feed, but this must be stopped.

Source: Financial Express

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