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High Court refers ‘pro-biotic’ case to Indian Council of Medical Research

Correspondent

Infant food supplement being tested on 284 newborns in Sundergarh and Khurda districts


The experiment is a violation of UN convention, says Centre for Legal Aid to Poor

‘US researchers using Orissa children as guinea pigs for their experiment’


CUTTACK: Without expressing any opinion over a PIL challenging an US agency experimenting with food supplement on newborns in the State, the Orissa High Court has referred the matter to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to address the grievance of the petitioner within three months.

The Centre for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP) in its petition has claimed that testing of food supplement called ‘pro-biotic’ on newborns violates Infant Milk Substitute, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act-2003, popularly known as IMS Act.

Seeking immediate High Court intervention, CLAP executive president Bikash Das had contended that such ‘dreadful’ experiments involve risk on the life of newborns and violates UN convention on Rights of Children that promotes breastfeeding.

“Pro-biotic” is a curd like food supplement carrying bacteria, which, in the opinion of the US researchers helps in digestion of food and prevention of infection when administered on newborns.

It is given three days after the birth as a food supplement.

“The infant food supplement is currently being tested on 284 newborns in over 223 villages of Sundergarh and Khurda districts.

Experiment

The experiment is being conducted under the Global Network Center for Women and Children’s Health Research with the support of University of Maryland and funded by US-based National Institute of Health along with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The agencies claim that this research could play a key role in checking neo-natal deaths as pro-biotic is administered on children suffering from sepsis.

It was also mentioned in the PIL that the consents of the parents of the children were also not obtained before administering the food supplement. It said the US researchers are using the Orissa children as guinea pigs for their experiment.

Making it clear that the court lacks expertise to adjudicate upon the issue, the bench of Chief Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice B.N. Mohapatra wanted to know the outcome of this research till date.

Requesting the screening committee of ICMR to look for answers to queries such as what institutional mechanism exist in the country to monitor impact of such researches, the High Court disposed of the petition earlier this week.

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