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  <%-- Page Title--%> Issue No 120 <%-- End Page Title--%>  

December 14, 2003 

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Food adulteration

Consumers' rights is at stake

Quazi Faruque

No doubt food is the vital source to keep the life alive, to create energy. It is essential for every human being. But the food which we take must have to be safe and secured. Access to safe and secured food is prerequisite to the right to life which is one of the constitutional rights of every citizen. Where as to-day there is tremendous scarcity of safe food for human consumption in our country. The foods which we generally take in our everyday life are either adulterated by the unscrupulous business community or microbiologically and chemically contaminated which are very much dangerous to health. These crate many unseen diseases and physical disorders. At the same time the drinking water which we take in our daily life are not always safe. Not even the bottled water. In the name of mineral and some times safe water are being sold millions of bottled water in the country. New companies are coming forward to start this sorts of business. Many of consumers depend on this drinking water and it has become a culture of drinking bottled water with the thinking that these are safe. Really are those safe ?

Question arises. Because it has been leant from the tests that most of the bottled water available in the market locally produced and imported are not up to the mark as claimed in the labelling the bottles. It was revealed from the general survey results, physico-chemical quality and related issues a few months back and that was disseminated through a seminar on the findings of the commercially available bottled water in Bangladesh. We can now easily assume how grave situation is prevailing in our country in the food and drinking water sector. Every one must agree that he loves himself the best and next his children. But taking this adulterated, contaminated food and unsafe water we are silently and gradually heading to-wards health hazardous life. Ourselves, our children are becoming seriously affected day by day. And if this continuous for longer period and if proper measures are immediately not taken we will have face lot of sufferings.

Very recently in a National Seminar on Food Safety and Public Health, the Director of Institute of Public Health (IPH), Dhaka Prof. Dr. . Muazaherul Huq in his address of welcome told that food contamination and adulteration is a grave concern now in the country because of unprotected border, corrupt trading practices, their unholy alliance with administrative and low enforcing authorities. He hinted in his speech that if it continues, our future generation will suffer from many complicated disease and in the long run and they might get intellectually disabled. And in future there is a possibility of being created a Stupid Nation which none of us expects.

On the whole the food safety situation in our country is very alarming. Sometimes it is found that due to lack of awareness and necessary pre-cautionary measures at different levels of the food chains microbiological or chemical contamination or both are taking place which cause many of the food borne illness. While most of our people do not have access to safe food the most important thing that is required by all of us is awareness on safe food and keep them free from hazardous effect of consumption of adulterated food. So, awareness is to be built up at the individual, family, social and national level. And we should start it just now.

The much needed change in the objectives contents, contexts and process of ensuring safe food for the nation have to be properly organised. First of all we will have to attach priority to awareness the awareness among the people irrespective of cast, creed, sex, age etc. Voices are to be raised. We need safe food. We need the guarantee of safe food. In this regard politicians, policy makers also will have to feel the urgency and develop innovative strategies and programmes to update the food laws and upgrade the existing laboratories facilities as to meet the health needs of our mass people.

If we look at the food state in some other countries a few years back such grave situation was also prevailing there. But to-day they have-over come the problems and have ensured safety food in their countries by promulgating proper laws and ordinances, building up awareness and taking coordinated efforts which we are yet to start in our country. There are of course some laws and ordinances in our country. Those are so obsolete and inadequate that do not serve the purpose. At the same time proper food testing laboratory facilities are also absent. More over no aggrieved consumer independly can reach there. In that case some times Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) on behalf of the general consumers conduct test of different food items and disseminate the information through media and keep the people informed by arranging seminars, dialogues, publishing different message booklets and in some other forms. Not only that this pioneer consumer organisation provides information, data and other materials to the media people of the own and sometimes taking from different sources. Of course with the assurance sources must not to be disclosed. And so the News Papers are in the position to make reporting items, features and other writings including editorials and post editorials.

It is really astonishing that the common fruit food materials like mango, banana, water lemon, papayas at are being chemically treated. Which once we conduit think of even. Possibly many of us by this time have learnt that the vegetables that we consume in our everyday life are often chemically contaminated. The health hazards of these chemicals are unthinkable. It is not only causing harm to our health but our mothers are also being affected leading to congenital problems to the new born.

Here I want to put the result of some food samples of common use like Biscuits, Jam-Jelly, Breads, Sweet Meats and Ice cams. Food samples were tested at the Public Health Laboratory (PHL) of Institute of Public Health (IPH) and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) during the second half of the current year. Samples are collected for the Dhaka City markets. It can easily be assumed that the situation out side Dhaka is more alarming, specially in the rural areas.

Now it is well understood that we are totally in the paws of food terrorism and which is rapidly being spread up due to lack of protective laws, awareness, Govt. initiatives and unethical practices of some of unscrupulous business people and bad manufacturing practices of the producers. We will have to work hard at different levels to reach the goal. Development of a Food Safety Council including formulation of Food Safety Policy with effective and co-ordinated implementation is urgently needed. At the same time update Rules, Regulations and ordinances on food quality control including street vended food are to be made and decade long awaited proposed Consumer Protection Law passed in the parliament immediately and enact the same for the greater interests means to ensure the access to safe food.

Quazi Faruque is General Secretary, Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB).

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