West Balkans Hatch Joint Strategy on Toxic Milk

Western Balkan ministers have adopted a regional strategy to handle the furor over toxin levels in milk, which have rattled consumers in several countries.Following a meeting on Tuesday in Belgrade, agriculture ministers of Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia agreed a regional strategy to ensure better quality controls of milk.

The strategy envisages tighter control of the system of feeding cattle and better conditions for storing milk.

“Every country will have its own controls, but we will exchange evidence and experiences and react jointly,” Serbia’s Agriculture Minister Goran Knezevic said.

All four countries have withdrawn suspect products after scientific analysis in Vienna showed that the amount of the aflatoxin M1 in milk produced by two Croatian dairies, Dukat and Vindija, was higher than the legally permitted limit of 0.05 per cent per kilo.

The two companies blamed the presence of the aflotoxin in milk on fungus in concentrated animal food.

Aflatoxins, toxic substances formed by a fungus in foodstuffs, are considered potentially carcinogenic, which is why EU member states and Serbia’s neighbours insist on low permitted levels of only 0.05 per kilo.

The Serbian government raised the maximum allowed concentration of aflatoxins to 0.5 micrograms on February 28, claiming that the new level presented no risk to health.

However, on Monday, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that the permitted level of aflatoxin in milk will be cut from 0.5 to 0.05 micrograms per kilo over the next 15 days.

No other country from the region followed Serbia’s example. The others said they would stick to EU food standards, which permit levels of alfatoxin of only 0.05 per kilo.

“We didn’t consider lifting the level of alfatoxin as it would harm what we agreed with the EU,” Macedonia’s agriculture minister Ljupco Dimovski said.

His Bosnian colleague, Mirko Sarovic, said better regional cooperation would solve the issue of toxin in milk.

“Is reasonable that tension exists. We are all taking measures to solve this issue, as are our colleagues in the region, ” Sarovic maintained.

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