Mohd Siddiqur Rahman
Most often either TV channels telecast or newspapers publish news concerning discovery as well as recovery of adulterated food items in factories and stores. Food adulteration with poisonous chemicals has reached an unreasonable proportion posing serious hazards to individual health as well as national health at large.
A seminar on public health reveals that every year 3 lac people die of cancer, 50 thousand of diabetics and 2 lac people are attacked by kidney diseases due to intake of adulterated food. Poisonous residues in food items have the worst impact on children's mental and physical growth and women's fertility, cause cancer and damage vital human organs like liver, kidney and heart.
Basic food items such as rice, fish, fruits, vegetables and sweetmeats have been found adulterated throughout the country. A discussion on hazards of food contamination in national life : "Way Forward" was held recently at the Daily Star centre in the capital. Views about the proportion of adulterated food items in the market varied between 70 and 90 percent. More than 76 percent food items on the market were found adulterated in a random survey conducted by the Public Health Laboratory of Dhaka City Corporation in 2004. There are approximately 150 food items in the country, said S K Roy, a senior scientist at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases Research, Bangladesh. (ICDDR, B). Mr. Roy, in his presentation said, 'formalin is applied on fish for preservation, calcium carbide on fruits to ripen, brick-dust in Chilli powder, urea to whiten rice and puffed rice, saw dust in loose tea, soap in ghee, and artificial sweetener, coaltar and textile dyes in sweetmeats. Formalin applied on fish, fruit, meat and milk causes throat cancer, blood cancer, childhood asthma and skin-diseases. Poisonous colouring agents like auramine, rodomine b, malachile green, yellow G, allura red, and sudan red applied on food items for colouring, brightness and freshness damage liver and kidney and cause stomach cancer, asthma and bladder cancer, said Roy.
Colouring agents chrome, tartzine and erythrosine are used in spices, sauces, juices, lentils and oils-causing cancer in kidney, liver, skin, prostate and lungs.
Rye flour used in barley, bread and wheat flour contribute to convulsion and miscarriage. Hormone used in cauliflower causes infertility of women. Agenomato or monosodium glutamate used in Chinese restaurant food items cause nervous system disorder and depression. Urea put in puffed rice and rice causes nervous system damage and respiratory problem. Sulphuric acid used in milk for condensation causes damage to the cardiac system.
Dr. Syed Humayun Kabir, Director of Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, said anyone should get trade license to produce food items but the news media must check the purity and safety of a food product before carrying its advertisement.
Application of excessive and unauthorised pesticides also cause contamination of food, said Dr. Kabir adding that additives used for making food items attractive can be lethal if those are cancerous. But some permitted preservatives, thickening agents, gelling agents, antioxidants, and stabilisers could be harmless, if applied in appropriate quantity, said Dr. Kabir.
Food grains, vegetables and fish also get contaminated by industrial pollution of the soil, air, and water, he said.
Burnt engine oil is used to fry zilapi, while artificial frangrance is applied on flowers, said Khalil Ahmad, Executive Magistrate of Dhaka City Corporation, who operates Mobile Court against adulterated food in the capital. Dr. Selina Rahman, Executive Director of RDRS said, most of the food adulteration occurs in the hands of middlemen in the process of transportation and marketing.
After having had so many ominous feedbacks, any conscious citizen cannot but get terrified at the current situation. The authors of food adulteration must be brought to justice as per law. There are several legislative enactments as well as ordinances to ensure the safety standard of food items and to punish the food adulterers e.g. the Bangladesh Pure Food Ordinance 1959; Bangladesh Pure Food Rules 1967; Food Grain Supply Ordinance 1956, the Radiation Protection Act, 1987; the Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) Preservation Act, 1989; the Essential Commodity Act, 1990; Fish and Fish Product (Inspection and Quality Control) Rules, 1997 etc.
It is alleged that most of the provisions under the Pure Food Ordinance, could not be effective till-date. Some of the steps, although suggested long before, not yet taken for implementation, are mentioned here under :
1. National Food Safety Advisory Council : It will consist of 16 important government high officials. This council shall advise the government on determination of quality of food and it's control and supply of safety and standard food for people.
2. Establishment of food-court : In every district or city of Bangladesh, one or more than one food-court will be set up through gazette notification and the function of the food-court shall be conducted by the first class magistrates.
3. Punishment : Food-court is empowered to impose fine from Taka 2 (two) thousand to 75 (seventy five) thousand for the first time offence and to offer rigorous imprisonment ranges between 2 and 12 months. For repeatedly committing same type of crime, the court shall have the right to impose fine from twenty five thousand to two lac Taka and offer rigorous imprisonment from three months to three years to the offenders. At the same time the magistrate has the right to seize the shops, factories and its belongings. We would like to draw the kind attention of the concerned authorities for implementation of the foregoing points as early as possible.
It is under Sections 34, 37, 28 of the Pure Food Ordinance, 1959 the Inspectors, Magistrates and BSTI have been operating mobile court against adulterated food in various districts of the county including capital city -Dhaka. We think, in view of the current dire situation, the pace of their activities needs to be geared up and frequency of operations should be increased with utmost capacity.
Sometimes conflict over the test-methods and result of analysis of food articles arises between BSTI, Public Analysts and BUET. In order to resolve this conflict, to make some other provisions in the Pure Food Ordinance, 1959 effective, it is recommended to ensure necessary amendments in the prevailing legislation.
Lastly, we all know, a sound mind lies in a sound body. To ensure an active and sound body that is essential for development of individual's as well as national life at large, there is no substitute of healthy food and healthy environment. So it is needless to further emphasize on the necessity of the aforesaid issue. To maintain healthy and normal life made obligatory for all people has been ensured by our Constitution. As expressed in Article 32 of our Constitution, all development efforts will meet with failures without good health. T