Use of formalin in different fruits as also as popular food items, such as vermicelli has registered an increase, posing a serious threat especially to the life of city dwellers, experts have said.
Referring to the government's slow anti-adulteration drives and not conducting formalin tests in the last two months, they believe such a laid-back attitude encourages unscrupulous elements in using formalin even more.
Engineer Abdus Sobhan, Executive General Secretary of Poribesh Bachao Andolon (POBA), said that to prevent the use of formalin, it was not enough to have anti-adulteration drives conducted by mobile courts and transgressors of the law punished.
"Anti-adulteration drives by mobile courts and punishing criminals is not sufficient. Rather the criminals should be brought to justice under Clause 25 (C) of the Special Powers Act, 1974, to check the use of formalin across the country," he said.
Referring to the draft Formalin Control Bill, 2014 proposed on June 30 this year, Sobhan said that the Bill should be presented in Parliament as early as possible.
"The Bill should be brought to Parliament soon for the speedy prevention of formalin use. And under this act there should not be any provision for permissible levels of formalin. If this suggestion is followed, the full prevention of formalin use will be possible," he said. POBA, a green rights based organization, very recently has conducted a research survey on local and foreign fruits in different areas of the capital.
The survey found that about 108 samples of fruits and 29 samples of food items, collected from different city markets for about three weeks this month for tests, had registered a significant presence of formalin.
The research report suggests that 69 percent of mangoes (among nine mangoes, six were contaminated), 57 percent of grapes (of seven grapes, four were contaminated with formalin), 71 percent of malta (of 14 malta, about ten were found with formalin) and 78 percent of vermicelli, posed dangers to public health.
However, Eng Abdus Sobhan, when asked about the quality of the tests in the laboratory on formalin and whether proper measures had been followed, said instruments and machines similar to those employed by the government in such circumstances had been used.
Dr Md Zahurul Haque, Director of the Institute of Food Science and Technology under Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(BCSIR), talking to the Daily Observer, said that already BCSIR had conducted some research work on the formalin testing of various food items, notably fish, milk, dates and mangoes, in the market.
"The percentage of formalin is high in mangoes and dates," he said.
He also said that the authorities were busy trying to discover an alternative to formalin that was not harmful for human beings.
Dr Md Abdul Matin, General Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), said that the government should form a monitoring cell through bringing together different enforcement agencies. He also suggested that being a signatory to the Stockholm Convention of Persistent Organic Pollutants, the government should take up some awareness programmes on the harmful effects of pollutants.
He noted that formalin was a dangerous chemical which could destroy such vital parts of the human body as the kidneys and liver. It could also cause cancer.