Bakery blues! |
Faizul A Tanim
The majority of bakeries in the capital produce low quality and hazardous food putting public health at risk. However, the authorities apparently turn a blind eye to this unhealthy business which has mushroomed over the years.
These bakeries run in unhygienic conditions and in most cases, function without any trade license from the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) claimed sources.
This correspondent visited one such bakery, Ashraf Food Products in Mirpur section 10, and found the bread and biscuits they were producing and distributing under the name of 'New Bombay Bread' being prepared under extremely unhygienic conditions.
Flour bags were seen dumped on the floor with cockroaches in constant motion around them. The unclean environment made the place stink. And while a baker was making the dough with his bare hands, another worker was spotted scratching his sweaty body with a knife, then removing the dirt from it and using exactly the same knife to slice bread and
When asked to explain such filthy conduct, they not only refused to answer but also rudely asked this correspondent to leave.
"We are not bound to reply your queries," said another dough-maker. During this visit on June 20, neither the owner or pastry chef of the factory could be found.
"Ashraf Food products have already paid a fine of Tk 20,000 a few days ago for unhealthy environment and noxious food production. Moreover, they are still operating without a trade license". Nurul Amin, Assistant Director of Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institute (BSTI) informed when he was contacted regarding the experience at the factory.
"Whenever a factory applies for a trade license, we ask for a sample of their food and bring it over to our laboratory. If it fits the requirement, then the BSTI gives its approval. But in their case, the food quality was never hygienic enough to meet our standards," he added.
The Penal Code Clause 273 says regarding sale of noxious food or drink: Whoever sells, or offers or exposes for sale, as food or drink, any article which has been rendered or has become noxious, or is in a state unfit food or drink, knowing or having reason to believe that the same is noxious as food or drink, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand [taka], or with both.
"We have a mobile team specifically for inspecting these bakeries. Our team operates around the city three days a week. After investigation, if we find any fault, a case is launched against the factories. Sometimes fines are also imposed on the factory's management," said Mosharraf Hossain Milon, sanitation officer of DCC.
Rashid Ahmed, a Dhaka resident who buys breads and biscuits from bakeries often said that it was practically impossible for people of low-income groups to do without cheap bakery stuff like bread rolls and cakes from makeshift shops. The middle-class is also exposed to the health threat from bakery items.
"Finding hair in cakes and bread rolls is not something new, but the presence of fingernails is amazing. The story of a lizard's tail making its way into the bread still disgusts me," he added.