Food safety and safe food
It is true that Bangladesh has seen a green revolution. In agriculture we have been able to produce large amount of crops. In most cases the country is not dependent on the imported food grains. You may call it is the time of food revolution.
But the question is very pertinent to ask, do you see safe food in the market now. The answer may be mostly negative as the country is still struggling to create the atmosphere of ensuring safe food for consumers. Ensuring safe food for common people is a great challenge of the present time. Everywhere we experience the rampant food adulteration which seems to be uncontrolled. Actually, food adulteration refers to adding or mixing chemicals or unnecessary harmful substances to food which stand as an obstacle to safe food.
Nowadays, it is tough to see any food items without being adulterated. From the basic food items such as meat, fish, fruits, oil, vegetables, spices, bakery items and sweetmeats to even the life-saving medicine everything is being adulterated causing a grave concern among the generation. It is very sad that adulterating of various food stuffs start mostly from the very production process to the last stage before reaching to the consumers. For example, the mangoes of Rajshahi have had reputation through centuries not only in our country but also in many foreign lands for the extraordinary quality and taste.
But this time people think hundred times to have the taste of mangoes. This also may happen to other fruits either from indigenous or imported as rampantly the fruit farmers are using chemicals in their garden discarding public health issues. Their only concern is to make themselves profitable, nothing else. It is true that farmers in the country have been fairy equipped with the farming technology and with the application of the modern tools and technology they are producing more crops what was unthinkable once.
But alarmingly, our farmers are in most cases using excessive chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the field which contribute to contaminating the environment posing a serious threat to the human being, livestock, wild and aquatic lives. For example, green vegetables growing amid agrochemicals have turned out to be nothing but the green toxic. Not only that, dishonest business men are constantly busy with adding various harmful substances with the consuming products to gain personally. They are found to use carbide, formalin, and different colours with foodstuffs on the basis of the characteristic of foods. But there is not enough resistance from consumers.
Even many reputed companies do not resist them to the way of adulterating consumer products. Sometimes dailies expose the horrific news of adulteration of the products of many famous consumer companies. These incidents make us aback with grievance that the consumers are the prey of the food processing and manufacturing companies. The products approved by BSTI do not always confirm that they are standard in quality as after getting approval many companies do not use the same quantity of every ingredient shown to BSTI for approval rather they try to maximize their business regardless of customers' interest.
Sometimes, they claim that their products are clinically proved good. It raises a question that how research findings are always favourable for their products and how much the research was authentic that makes a matter of debates among the many.
It is no denial that consuming adulterated foods has a dire impact on human health. Every year thousands of people die prematurely due to food adulteration. According to the World Health Organization and Food & Agriculture Organization, nearly 45 lakh people in Bangladesh are being infected with various diseases every year due to food adulteration. Studies claim that the rise of cancer, liver and kidney diseases along with disruption of mental and physical wellbeing are the consequences of food adulteration.
However, consuming safe food is a constitutional right of every citizen in the country. With considering the importance, in 2009 the first comprehensive law was framed to protect the rights of consumers and in 2013 the separate safe food law was introduced; under this law Bangladesh food safety authority was formed to ensure safe food for every citizen. But the concerned are hardly found to be vigilant to ensure food safety for consumers. In most cases, their works to check adulteration and contamination in foods, particularly in iftar items are noticeable during the Ramadan.
Well, it is good news for the consumers that recently the Cabinet has approved the draft of Bangladesh Agricultural Good Practices Policy, 2020 in order to ensure safe and quality agricultural products by applying good practices in the entire production-to-consumption chain. It is expected that through the implementation of the policy, the health hazard of consuming agricultural products will decrease to the optimum level.
Certainly, there is no alternative to ensure safe food. To bring revolution for safe food, the law should be implemented strictly. It is imperative to make people spontaneous and encourage them to boycott the offenders going on adulterating foodstuffs.
Farmers should be made aware that using excessive chemicals is a silent threat to health. Simultaneously people those who work to ensure safe foods should be rewarded. Mass media has a great role to play in this regard. But it will be a difficult task until people from all walks are aware of their consuming rights.
Alaul Alam teaches at Prime University