Dr Farahnaaz Feroz
It is undeniable that human survival relies on the availability of safe foods. When food is contaminated with microorganism, it poses serious threats to public health and safety. However, along with microbial hazards, which include physical and chemical hazards, there are various other factors that need to be addressed for maintaining food safety. Food safety threats in Bangladesh are arsenic in food, genetically modified food, environment pollutants in food, human-induced food adulteration during farm production, industrial production, marketing, and street food vending. Numerous food processors are producing, processing and preparing foodstuffs in serious unhygienic environments.
Chemical hazards pose long-term consequences on human health. Chemical products such as antibiotic, pesticide residue and phyto-products are used in growing crops. Food adulteration, which has become common in recent times, refers to intentionally altering the quality of commercially available food through the use of low quality substances or the removal of important ingredients, all of which are against government regulations of the country. Various scientific researchers have identified the significant role of food and water as a vehicle for bacterial and fungal diseases. Numerous studies have expressed the deteriorating microbiological quality of foods in Bangladesh, be it packet foods and spices or fresh raw foods. One has to wonder how the citizens of our nations survive when they are consuming toxic substances.
Contamination can be a result of wastewater, dirt and dust, human and animal waste. A recent study, whose results are published in Biocontrol Science (2016) Vo1 21, No 4, page 243-251, titled “Bacterial and Fungal Counts of Dried and Semi- Dried Foods Collected from Dhaka, Bangladesh and Their Reduction Methods,” examined the quality of foods in Bangladesh, particularly spices and herbs sold in packets. This study found that spices, herbs and semi-dried fruits had microbial presence within the range of 102 to 106 colony forming units per milliliter (CFU/mL). Another study published in Bangladesh Journal of Microbiology, titled “Microbial and Fungal Loads of Raw Foods collected from Dhaka, Bangladesh and the Effect of Heat on its growth,” also reported large presence of fungus and bacteria in raw foods ranging from 103 to 105.This is very alarming as long as many fruits and vegetables are eaten raw. Adulteration isn’t limited to raw foods from markets, restaurants have also been found to use food colors and hazardous chemicals and mobile court raids at different restaurants in Dhaka city have confirmed these findings.
While important nutrients and vitamins are received from foods, its deteriorating quality can lead to various diseases and negatively impact the public health. Strict enforcement of hygienic practices is required to maintain the quality of foods at all levels. Regulation on food availability, accessibility and utilization should be developed and strictly followed. Local vendors should be taught and trained in proper methods for storing foods in a safe manner. This is certainly an issue of public concern as it affects their health. Also the gravity of the issue has been intensified in recent times due to the recent incentives of the government to regulate and monitor food safety and hold those to account who are involved in food adulteration. Widespread knowledge regarding food safety will not only create awareness, but also it will help ensure that government actions are having a greater impact.
Dr Farahnaaz Feroz is Associate Professor and Chairperson, Department of Microbiology, Stamford University Bangladesh