Although broiler chicken is an easily available and affordable source of meat for a large part of the country's population, there have long been concerns about the presence of harmful antibiotics and heavy metals in it. However, a recent government study says broiler chickens are safe to eat and pose no public health risks.
Funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council carried out the study on 315 samples from 1,200 broiler chickens and 30 broiler chicken feeds from across the country to identify the presence of 10 antibiotics and three heavy metals in the meat, bones, livers, kidneys, gizzards and feed of broiler chickens.
The samples contain much lower amounts of antibiotics and heavy metals than the maximum tolerable levels, Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said while disclosing the findings of the study at the Secretariat on Thursday.
As there were speculations about the presence of harmful substances in broiler chickens, the consumption of “nutrient-rich broiler meat” decreased significantly during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the minister said.
“The Ministry of Agriculture took the initiative to research chicken amid the controversy,” he added.
The samples were sent to the SGS laboratory in India’s Chennai to identify some of the antibiotics present in it. The rest and three heavy metals were tested at the quality control laboratory of the Department of Livestock in Savar.
The study found the nominal presence of two antibiotics - oxytetracycline and doxycycline, and three metals - arsenic, chromium and lead, way too low to cause harm to humans.
Dr Monirul Islam, a retired BARC official, said: "Chromium-6 or Hexavalent chromium creates a big problem for the human body. We don't have this element in our poultry sector.”
“Chickens that used to become marketable in 35 days are now being marketed after 28 days through the use of extra feed and antibiotics. If the farmers are made more aware, pollution in chicken meat will be reduced by 90 percent,” said Monirul.
The agriculture minister said tannery wastes were “no longer” being used as chicken feed and the leather industry has moved from Hazaribagh to Savar.
Razzaque also said that the government would provide incentives in the poultry sector with the potential to make it an exporting industry.
“Twenty percent incentives are available on the export of agricultural products. But livestock and fish are not on that list. I’m trying to find a way so that chicken meat exports can be included among them.”