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16 October, 2019 12:45:41 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 16 October, 2019 05:25:12 PM
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Food safety still a far cry

BSTI finds 30 more items substandard
MUHAMMAD YEASIN
Food safety still a far cry

Despite High Court’s (HC) stance on food adulteration, a section of unscrupulous businessmen have continued producing and marketing substandard and adulterated food items across the country, posing a great threat to public health. The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) recently found 30 food items out of 200 substandard for human consumption in addition to the 52 food products which were banned by the HC earlier in May this year.

The grim picture of food safety in the country was disclosed yesterday when the country joins other nations in observing World Food Day today. Corruption and greed have become so deep-rooted that these unscrupulous businessmen even ignore the possibility of harming the family members of their own by their actions, experts said.  They opined that culture of impunity as well as defiant attitude of food firms and the lack of awareness on the part of consumers were root causes of food adulterations. They blamed that soft penalty for errant traders together with occasional deterrent drives by the law enforcers across the country as another cause of rampant food adulteration.

Talking to this correspondent, Barrister Sarkar MR Hassan Mamun said that the food testing authority found 30 more food items on the markets as substandard.

“BSTI authorities conducted test on 200 food items including biscuit, cake and salt and others and found 30 substandard,” he said.

However, he didn’t disclose any name of the culprit company.  

“The food watchdog has already given notices to the companies concerned informing them about the substandard of their products,” he said adding that after collecting all documents BSTI would submit a report to the High Court seeking directive over the issue.

He said that the HC had earlier banned 52 food items on the basis of BSTI report and the authorities concerned removed the foods items from the markets in line with the HC directive.

However, after ensuring the quality the companies applied to BSTI for retest of their products and the BSTI retested samples of 52 food items and found them standard and allowed them to sell their products in the markets, the BSTI lawyer said.

Following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), a HC bench had on May 12 this year banned production and sale of 52 substandard food products found them to be injurious to human health.

Conscious Consumers Society (CCS), an organisation working to protect consumers’ rights, filed the writ with the HC on May 9.

In reaction to HC order, petitioner CCS authorities said adulterated food items are causing serious health hazards including kidney and heart diseases.

Around 2 crore people are suffering from kidney diseases while 1.5 crore others are affected by cardiac problems mainly due to consumption of toxic foods, it said. Number of cancer patients will exceed 2 crore by 2030, CCS said, quoting a report.

“Although the government has formulated a number of food regulatory laws to prevent and punish the offenders, but the implementation ratio is very much poor, Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua said.

Section 272 and 273 of the Penal Code 1860 make food adulteration an offence. The most relevant of these laws, the Food Safety Act 2013, imposes a seven-year imprisonment and a Tk 20 lakh fine for mixing life-threatening chemicals with foods. However, none of these punishments seem adequate for food polluters as the offenders are producing contaminated foods due to the lack of severe punishment of proper monitoring, he added.

Former chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission and Consumers Association of Bangladesh President Ghulam Rahman said that the Food Safety Act 2013 prescribes the fine of Tk 20 lakh as the maximum punishment for food adulteration.

He called the punishment ‘inadequate’ for the prevention of food adulteration.

Conscious Consumers Society Executive Director Palash Mahmud said that drives of mobile courts and at least half a dozen government agencies failed to impact visibly. The food adulteration became endemic in Bangladesh due to government agencies’ indifference over the past decade, he added.

He said that adulterated food is a silent killer. It is more dangerous than militants and drug traders. It is high time the government took a hard-line stand and showed zero tolerance against food adulteration like it initiated countrywide drives against militants and drug traders, he added.

MK/SI

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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