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India: No import of US dairy products for now

The Hindu | November 15, 2010

No import of US dairy products for now

They will be subjected to protocol and verification: Pawar

Gargi Parsai

India has an “open mind,” but for now, it has held back permission to the United States for accessing Indian markets for U.S. dairy products, which may be made from the milk of cattle fed with feeds produced from internal organs, blood meal and tissues of ruminant origin or those that may contain animal rennet.

In recent bilateral talks during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India, the Agriculture Ministry made it clear that India will subject U.S. dairy products to the same protocol and veterinary certification as was applicable to other countries, and that India would have to be sensitive to religious sentiments.

Drawing a parallel with the Codex Alimentarius-recognised Islamic and Jewish dietary code, which is applicable to Halal and Kosher foods, the Indian side held that religious sentiments would not allow for the import of dairy products such as cheese that were manufactured from the milk of cattle fed on blood meal and tissues of ruminant origin or those which contain animal rennet and are unlabelled.

The Codex Alimentarius is a collection of internationally recognised standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations relating to foods, food production and food safety developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation. It recognises religious and cultural sensitivities.

Under Indian norms for the import of milk and milk products, the importer/manufacturer must certify that “the source animals have neverbeen fed with feeds produced from internal organs, blood meal and tissues of ruminant origin.”

Further, if the milk product contains animal rennet (the membrane lining the stomach of a young calf or related animal that contains an enzyme called rennin, used for curdling milk to make cheese), it must be labelled.

At the same time, sanitary standards lay down that the animals from which milk has been derived were not exposed to Bovine Growth Hormones (BGH)/Bovine Somatotropin Hormones (BST) and that the source animals were not subjected to estrogenic treatment in the last 90 days.

The U.S. side is believed to have invoked scientific studies to suggest that the blood meal and tissues of ruminant origin in the cattle feed get absorbed into their system in three months, while the Indian side wanted Americans to certify that their animals had “never” been fed on a non-vegetarian diet as mentioned above or with beef.

Scientific studies

When asked about the Indian position, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar — who headed the negotiations with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — said: “We have an open mind. They say that it doesn’t affect the animal’s milk. We have told the Americans to come up with their scientific studies, which would be scrutinised by our scientific community. As religious sentiments are involved, we have to be cautious. [But] we are open to their scientific studies.”

“We told them that their dairy products would be subjected to the same protocol and certification that is applicable to other countries,” he added. India imports dairy products from New Zealand and Australia.

 source: The Hindu