Food adulteration goes unabated


Many of the dairy products and various meats are being adulterated with harmful chemicals by unscrupulous traders for huge profits.

The dairy products like milk, eggs, cheese, butter and poultry as well as fish and meat are found to be adulterated by highly health damaging chemicals, recent laboratory tests of samples of such products show. 

Sources said chemicals beyond the permissible level has been found in many food items tested for harmful substances like antibiotic and heavy metals.

It is said that use of insecticides, pesticides and antibiotics in vegetable farming, poultry farms and livestock are unregulated. As a result, most of the dairy products and animal flesh and fish we eat contain harmful chemicals which may cause various chronic diseases including cancer.

No comprehensive research has been done so far in Bangladesh revealing the real effects of adulterated food on public health. Currently, there are three million cancer patients in Bangladesh and an additional 4 lakh are added every year. A vast majority of these cancer patients are believed to have developed cancer from such adulterated food.

However, absence of good practices in food production, distribution and sales of goods and services to the consumers are among the major threats to the consumers’ health. Checking adulteration of food is the responsibility of the public health department but such agencies largely remain dormant allegedly for fund and manpower crisis.

The lack of the government’s seriousness in checking such important issue is quite apparent from such situation where checking of adulteration of food is not a priority issue.

Many experts who are closely associated in diagnosing cancer patients expressed concerns at the rising levels of adulteration of food.

Because consuming antibiotics with milk should have the same effect on health as consuming it with farm fishes. These heavy metals of antibiotics are not mixed directly with the products rather these harmful substances are used to make animal food, medicinal purpose and fatten the animals.

In many cases, these antibiotics and heavy metals are used beyond the prescribed level.

These harmful substances are ultimately finding their way to human bodies through fish, meat, milk and other food items. This is such an overwhelming phenomenon that it should be declared as national crisis or epidemic.

Around three lakh tonnes of plastic waste are being dumped into water bodies and open places while the fishes are consuming them as micro-plastic and those are entering into human food chain. So only making law is not enough always. Mass awareness is urgently required. Conscious Consumer Society (CCS) has been trying its best to aware people in this regard. “We are committed to follow and spread the application of Consumer Right Protection Law-2009,” said Palash Mahmud, Executive Director of CCS.

More than two and half crore people are suffering from kidney diseases; the number is four crore for liver patients, sources said.

Nearly half the population of the country is suffering in these three diseases — a major reason behind such high numbers is adulterated food. 

Syeda Rizwanna Hasan, Chief Executive, BELA, urged owners of super shops to not only do business to get profit, but also work for humanity. “Apart from the owners of super shops, the government will also have to take the responsibility on its shoulder,” she said.

Talking about the major effects of harmful elements, Zubair Abdullah, a cancer specialist said, “There are around 25 lakh cancer patients now in Bangladesh with two lakh new patients being affected by the disease every year,” 

Shihab Uddin Khan, the plaintiff's lawyer, said that according to media reports on May 3 and 4 this year, BSTI recently tested 406 food samples of 27 types.

“They’ve published results of 313 products. Among them, samples from 52 manufacturers were found to be substandard and adulterated,” he said.

Shihab said that since no step to seize and remove these products from the market was taken, the CCS sent legal notice to two secretaries of different ministries and owners of two companies on 6 May. “As they took no steps even after receiving the legal notice, we filed the writ petition,” the lawyer said.

In a recent study jointly carried out by Conscious Consumer Society (CCS) and Consumer Youth Bangladesh (CYB) conducted in Chattogram it showed that some 54.55 percent of broiler birds (poultry chicken) were infected with multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria.

The total number of livestock in the country is 393.14 million, according to department of livestock's data 2017-18. Some eight crore people are suffering from life threatening diseases resulting in a big amount of out-of-pocket expenditure as medical cost each year.