Rat bread
[Representational Image]Creative Commons/Deanna Wrubleski

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi has debarred a company for three years from dealing in all tenders and contracts, after a live rat was found in a sealed packet of brown bread that was supplied to the hospital for patients.

"The live rat was found in a standard two bread pack, that we get from the company, by kitchen staff in the last week of July. By any standards, this is a serious health hazard," The Indian Express quoted a senior AIIMS official as saying.

The incident was brought to light on 29 July when professor Govind Makharia of Department of Gastroenterology complained that a rat was found inside a bread packet supplied by manufacturer Bonn Nutrients Private Limited, AIIMS Medical Superintendent DK Sharma said on Tuesday, according to a PTI report.

AIIMS authorities held an immediate meeting with the vendors on the same day.

"Immediately after receipt of written complaint, the said sealed packed of bread slice in which the live rat was found was taken in custody and the vendor was called for an urgent meeting which was held on July 29...," according to a statement released by AIIMS.

"After long discussions and deliberations in this matter, the representative of the vendors intimated that long sealing/bottom sealing of the packing material of bread slice was not intact to almost 2-3 inches and apprehension was that the rat must have entered through this opening somewhere in the transit and needs to be investigated."

After investigation, the hospital authorities cancelled the contract with the company for three years for not keeping up with "Good Manufacturing Practice". AIIMS authorities later sent a show cause notice to the Ludhiana-based manufacturer of bakery products, Bonn Nutrients Private Limited.

"A live rat was found on 29.07.2015 in the sealed packet of Brown-Hi Fibre Bread Slice manufactured by M/s Bonn Nutrients Pvt. Ltd. The company has failed to submit a satisfactory reply to the showcause notice dated 09.09.2015," a notice on AIIMS website said

"The contract of the company was cancelled on August 5 and the performance security of Rs. 25,000 was forfeited...we have black listed and debarred the company from AIIMS for a period of three years for dealing in all tenders and contracts etc," Sharma said.

The variety of the bread, in which the live rat was found, is given to almost all patients, including those who undergo surgeries and those with severe infections. Eating "rodent-infected food could lead to fever, diarrhoea, and even cause blood infection etc," an AIIMS doctor said.

Bonn Nutrients denies the allegations

Reacting to the media reports, the manufacturer of the bread said its manufacturing facility situated in Ludhiana is an ISO certified and FSSAI approved unit, which "follows the best industrial practices in our manufacturing facilities concerning health, safety and hygiene".

"The matter came to light on July 29, 2015, when it was reported that a live rat was allegedly found in a two slice bread pack within the premises of AIIMS. Immediately on receipt of such notice our representatives rushed to AIIMS who met the relevant officials of AIIMS and clarified that the alleged incident could not happen at our end for various reasons explained to them," Bonn Nutrients said in a statement on Wednesday.

The company said that AIIMS issued a show cause notice in September, to which it replied and there was no communication from the hospital after that.

"We again wish to assure that the facts as alleged by AIIMS in their notice are imaginary and cannot be possible by any stretch of imagination. By the alleged incident perhaps AIIMS has tried to shift its own faults and negligence or acts of sabotage by which perhaps a rat was claimed to found in the sealed packaging," a company spokesperson said.