It is heartening to learn that the commerce ministry has slapped restrictions on the unregulated import of formalin -- a substance designed for preserving biological specimen in laboratories which also has industrial applications. Sadly, this chemical has become the choice ingredient for unscrupulous traders to preserve foodstuffs in a bid to keep them fresh in wholesale and kitchen markets in the city. Now we are told that importers will have to obtain ministerial permission before importing the chemical.
FBCCI, the apex body of all chambers of commerce in the country has been busy in overseeing that the substance finds no place in some of the larger markets in the city including Shantinagar and now Mohakhali. While the introduction of modern detection machines in these markets is undoubtedly a good move, we are perplexed as to why there is no serious move to introduce legislation to nip in the bud the wholesale practice of adulteration. Again, the offer to hold 'dialogue' with stakeholders will surely grab a lot of headlines, but unfortunately, fall short of attaining its intended objective, i.e. act as a serious deterrent to errant traders.
The horrible side effects of ingesting food treated with formalin are now quite clear to the affected general populace of Dhaka city. The fact that it breaks down blood cells causing a lack of blood in the body and is source to a great many ailments in the human anatomy should be cause enough for the authorities to take decisive action in this regard. Yet, we find ourselves in a situation that smacks of a rotten deal when our public representatives shy away from doing what the public elected them to do -- work for public interest and benefit. Needless to say, food is big business in any city with a population of 1.5crore. But business must also be responsible in nature and not unbridled laissez faire. The citizens of Dhaka are entitled to consuming unadulterated food. Time has surely arrived to introduce laws that will send out a clear message to adulterators that there are serious consequences for playing with peoples' health.