Bad milk and in "bad" state of conservation, with "large clumps", with "strong smell of methane", or simply "contaminated", are some of the conclusions of the technical examinations carried out by the Food Hygiene and 2004 on more than 1,500 samples of dairy products that were delivered in the school cafeterias of the City of Buenos Aires between March 2003 and January 2005.
These conclusions are also part of the statements of the resolution 1506 of December 2004 with which the City Government rescinded the concession contract with the company Cows & Bulls S.A. This company was responsible for two years of providing whole milk and drinkable yogurt for breakfast and snacks for about 182 thousand students under 12 years old of the public schools of the City.
Both the findings of the Hygiene Division and the details of tender 23/03, which gave Cows & Bulls the service concession, are contained in a report of the General Audit Office of the City of Buenos Aires (AGCBA, for its acronym in Spanish), which also points out some of the "frank contraventions to the rules of the basic specifications and conditions, and the rules of the Argentine Food Code," which were detected in dairy products. For example, samples of the Consomme brand analyzed in March 2004 recorded "altered organoleptic characteristics", characteristic of expired milk; In June, at Escuela Crespo No. 16, a container of UAT homogenized whole milk (long life) that was also altered, "literally exploded inside a stove 18 hours after incubation began"; Two samples of whole long-life Consomme milk, examined in September, had "acid odor and sensory characteristics of the product"; And strawberry flavored yogurt observed in November by the laboratory of the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA, showed coliform bacteria and escherichia coli, which causes hemolytic uremic syndrome.
These results led to the rescission of the contract "because of the winner", says the AGCBA report. But while these tests were being carried out, the government of the City of Buenos Airesdecided to increase the money it paid Cows & Bulls for the dairy service.
The Executive approved the terms and conditions in January 2003 for $ 14,902,963.20, and Cows & Bull began operations at the beginning of the school year. The contract stated that whole milk and drink yogurt were to be presented in liter sachets and that the distribution was on behalf of the company, which promised to deliver them every day in each school between 7.30 and 8.30. In addition, the price of fluid milk was set between $ 1.17 and $ 1.19 per liter, and the price of yogurt ranged from $ 1.57 to $ 1.59.
The first year of work passed. But in 2004, "without any authorization, the contractor modified the provision of dairy products from March 1 and began delivering long-life milk in a tetra-pack container," says the Audit. Just on April 16, Cows & Bulls asked for authorization to change the provision of the service and to enable it to use sterilization technology, using UHT (long life) treatment, and tetra-pack system packaging. In addition, the company re-listed the prices of its products "without asking the General Directorate of Cooperators and School Eaters" the price variation, adds the AGCBA report. Thus, the liter of milk happened to cost $ 1.65 and the one of the yogurt, $ 1.75. The firm also attached budgets from other competitors who produced more expensive dairy products.
Due to the characteristics of long-life milk and the tetra-pack, the new modality allowed Cows & Bulls not to have to make daily delivery of the products or guarantee the storage and distribution of refrigerated dairy products.
With this panorama, the Government approved the order of the company on June 28, 2004, retroactively to March 1, by decree 1,149. That is to say, "the administrative act that modifies the supply provision rule is dated after the start of the new service," concludes the Audit. The decree also validated the new prices of the liter of milk and yogurt, so the contract increased by $ 2,077,125.53.
On the other hand, the AGCBA asked several competent agencies of the City to carry out studies to measure the danger that these dairy products might pose to the students. In response to the request, the Directorate of Primary Health Care responded that the laboratory samples analyzed by the UBA "constitute different degrees of health risk for the population exposed to the consumption of said foods", and recommended "to avoid their use and take the Pertinent precautions."