Commentary

Food adulteration unabated


A couple of days back a television channel was telecasting an investigative report on a factory producing and marketing milk and curd made without using milk as raw material! This may sound strange but it is the truth. It was located on Dhaka Narshingdi road. For long nine (9) years the factory has been marketing the harmful products without ever getting caught by the food inspectors of the government. The factory used phosphate, artificial sweeteners and coloring agents along with some other chemicals to produce milk and curd. When magistrates raided the factory with the help of Rab, it was fined Tk. 50 lac and some workers and managers were arrested.  The owners have gone into hiding.  The severity of food adulteration in terms of causing irreparable damage to human health needs no emphasising. 

This is what Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) says about food adulteration:  

“Food contamination and food adulteration situation of Bangladesh is a serious public health concern. Unsafe/contaminated food causes many acute and life-long diseases, ranging from diarrheal diseases to various forms of cancer. An estimate shows that globally food-borne and waterborne diarrheal diseases taken together kill about 2.2 million people annually, of them 1.9 million are children. 

However, in Bangladesh dependable assessment of the public health impact due to food contamination is not available due to absence of a regular monitoring system. The data from ICDDR,B indicate that 501 hospital visits per day for treatment of diarrhea that were attributable to food and water borne causes. General scenario on food contamination demonstrates a widespread non compliance with hygienic practice in food handling both among food producers and food traders such as street food traders.

Food adulteration with harmful chemicals is also common in Bangladesh. The chronic effect of such events such as cancer, kidney disorders and birth defects is unlikely to be observed in short term, because the manifestation of the disease only occurs after long-term, low-level exposure. Food contamination and consumers exposure to food hazards have major implication on the food security and consumers heath in Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh Food Safety Network (BFSN)

To foster the safe food movement in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Food Safety Network (BFSN) was formed in Bangladesh following a two-day long Workshop titled `Building a Food Safety Network in Bangladesh’ held on 09-10 November 2010 in Dhaka organized by CAB with the initiative of FAO Food Safety Project.  BFSN was formally launched on 15 October 2011 at LGED Auditorium. 

It is a matter of great concern how hundreds of factories can continue to produce and market highly hazardous food items without having any certificates from BSTI! People have been consuming poisonous milk and milk products without ever suspecting the attractive packaging. Milk products, ice cream, curd, toffee, juice, jam, jelly etc are being produced completely with harmful chemicals though labels claim use of fresh milk and fruits. Who is there to inspect and take stern measures against these factories?  

We understand CAB is one organization that works in this regard. But, it is baffling indeed how a factory could go on producing and marketing “Fresh Milk” under the nose of the authority for 9 years!