Balkans cancer scare over milk toxin spreads


A scare over contaminated milk which has forced Serbia’s government to remove some dairy products from sale and to deny allegations of a cover-up has spread to neighbouring Croatia and Montenegro.

Goran Ješic , a regional agricultural official in northern Serbia, blew the whistle this week, accusing ministers in Belgrade of hiding test results that revealed unacceptably high levels in milk of a potentially carcinogenic substance called aflatoxin.

“If you ask me whether to buy milk, the answer is ‘no’,” said Mr Ješic. “I am a father of two children and that is why I published the results and I will always do that.”

After initially insisting there was no need for action, the government banned the sale of milk products from several manufacturers, while still claiming that there was no danger to public health. It accused Mr Ješic and his opposition party of political games.

“I believe this is an attempt of the Democratic Party to . . . destabilise and topple the government using the most sensitive issue, and that is public health,” said agriculture minister Goran Kneževic, who drank several glasses of milk on camera.

“I spoke with agriculture ministers in Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro – they are all having the same problem,” Mr Kneževic added.

Aflatoxin is produced by a fungus in grains. Experts say last year’s very dry summer allowed the fungus to flourish in corn used to feed dairy cows.

Croatia’s leading dairy, Dukat, yesterday stopped buying milk from 180 farms due to fears over aflatoxin.

Montenegro has ordered a halt to all milk production pending tests.