In spite of a number of ministries and bodies working to ensure food safety in the country, adulteration and excessive use of chemicals such as formalin, calcium carbide, pesticides and artificial growth regulators continue unabated, making everything from fruits and vegetables to fish unsafe for consumption. Consequences range from immediate food poisoning to long-term effects on health which include but are not limited to skin diseases, asthma and cancer. The problem persists despite pure food laws originating in 1959 which were updated in 2005 and the occasional operations of mobile courts against adulterated food. The recently introduced 'formalin free' markets in some areas, though certainly a positive measure, are essentially offering what should be not an exception but the norm.
In this backdrop, we welcome the government's concern for food safety and proposed measures to ensure it, including plans for a single agency, the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), to take on the responsibility. Previously, the lack of coordination between the different bodies involved and the burden of overwork on an already shortage of personnel have been blamed for the failure to maintain quality control of food. Under a single organisation with relevant committees and divisions and adequate staff with the sole responsibility of maintaining food safety, we are hopeful that the task will be more manageable and, ultimately, successful. Proper surveillance, inspection and, where called for, prompt and strict prosecution of the culprits can work significantly to identify and deter unethical dealers in the food business.
Needless to say, food is a basic necessity and right, and at the end of the day it is the government's duty to ensure not only food security for its people but food that is safe for consumption. We hope the proposed measures of the food ministry will be taken up and implemented with immediate effect.