Analysing food safety laws in Bangladesh
Syed Gouseuzzaman Haideri Ali
Access to pure food is a necessary corollary of right to life. Every human being has a right to get pure food for his consumption. Every state should provide comprehensive law for the safety and purity of food. Pure and unadulterated food should be made available to every person, irrespective of his caste, creed, religion, race and nationality.
Further, food is a major source of human exposure to pathogenic agents, both chemical and biological (viruses, parasites and bacteria) from which no individual is spared. Food -borne diseases should be identified and proper steps should be taken to prevent those diseases.
Food safety situation in Bangladesh is very much precarious. Consumers in Bangladesh become victims of serious adulteration in food. Legal regulations and manufacturers monitoring practices are not enough to prevent contamination of the country's food supply and to protect consumers from serious harm. Bangladesh is yet to develop a unified food safety policy, a unified food safety administrative system and a unified food safety law.
But Bangladesh has a National Food Safety and Nutrition Policy, where attention has been given to food safety. There are significant activities in food safety and quality control in the country. A number of ministries, departments and agencies are involved in these activities with a major responsibility of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which has a unique infrastructure to deliver its services throughout the country. Under this ministry, management and information system on food safety and food-borne illnesses are to some extent integrated with the primary health care programme. In Bangladesh, the food safety and quality control framework consist of: (a) Laws and Regulations, b) Standards (c) Administration and Inspection (d) Laboratory Analytical Services.
Food safety laws, regulations and administration in Bangladesh are rather ineffective. Food safety administration and inspection does not include the monitoring of the entire chain of production and transaction. So, the regulators have seemingly failed to ensure the quality and safety of food.
Constraints of food safety
Following are the Constraints which are Prevalent in Bangladesh Regarding Food Safety:
(1) Food control activities are implemented in a disorganized form.
(2) Food laws and regulations do not embody recent international developments. It is not up to date with recommendation by CAC (Codex Alimentarius Commission Act 1961), SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) Agreement, TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) Agreement and HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) System.
(3) There are insufficient cooperation and coordination in the activities of plant quarantine, food control, food standards, law enforcement and laboratories.
(4) There is a lack of consumer/public awareness programme.
(5) There is a constraint of financial resources.
(6) Multifarious factors are influencing food safety policies.
(7) Proper enforcement of laws, regulations and standards are absent.
(8) Both producers and consumers are lacking in knowledge regarding food safety laws, regulations and standards.
(9) Safe limits of arsenic in food have not been determined.
Therefore, Bangladesh has a long a way to go before it can ensure safe and wholesome food for its citizens. Certain standard of quality and hygiene should be maintained, so that the consumers are satisfied with what they consume.
(1) A comprehensive and unified food safety policy should be formulated, unified administrative system should be established and a unified food safety law should be enacted.
(2) Food ordinances, food regulations and other relevant Acts should be updated from time to time in view of the changing requirements arising out of scientific and technical developments.
(3) There should be harmonization among the provisions of laws, rules, regulations and standards.
(4) Guidelines should be formulated on good agricultural practices and good manufacturing practices for all food items including fruits and vegetables.
(5) CAC standards which are international standards do not fully take care of a number of foods grown and manufactured in Bangladesh for their quality and safety. In that case, internationally accepted food certification should rely on the Bangladeshi standards of food certification for marketing.
(6) Measures should be taken to modernize food inspection, manufacturing procedures and research on food-borne disease outbreaks.
(7) More organizations should be established for accreditation, regulation and certification.
(8) There should be feasibility and methods for post-marketing monitoring of GM food products.
(9) Science-based standards should be adopted and HACCP type preventive approaches should be fostered in food hygiene through the various food laws up to the retail level.
(10) The employees of the national regulation agencies should be imparted training concerning the preparation of technical regulations i.e., principles and provisions of TBT for implementing certification, accreditation and reinforcement and for evaluating the impact of standards, procedures and guidelines.
(11) Food laws and regulations should accommodate international standards by adopting the guidelines and practices of CAC, HACCP, SPS and TBT.
(12) A national food control agency should be established.
So, in this way Bangladesh can improve its food safety situation to a great extent. The country should ensure pure and wholesome food for all its citizens. Food production should be monitored along its every step. Food safety practices should be inspected from the farm to the dining table. Management of food safety practices should be undertaken from the beginning of the supply chain i.e. the producer to the end of the supply chain i.e. the constraint.
The writer is Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh..