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Barrister Harun ur Rashid Consumers in Dhaka and other cities in Bangladesh are very alarmed to learn about the incidences of serious adulteration in food. Not only it is reported that certain "rogue" restaurants are using dead meat/chicken meat, sweets have been mixed with substances that pose health hazards. Furthermore consumers do not get what they see in the shops and in "rogue" restaurants. During 2005, adulterated food products have soared in the market, according to media. The news "Eating Dangerously" was run in The Daily Star that provided awareness about adulterated food products among consumers. The investigative reporters of the newspaper have done a splendid job in detecting adulterated food products and exposing them to the public. Food safety Food safety is not a problem for Bangladesh only. It is spread over all the developing countries. It is seen generally that demand for food quality increases with the increase of household incomes. Consumers express their concerns about the healthiness and wholesomeness of food when standard of living develops at a certain level. Food safety includes food quality. Consumers should get what they are told of the contents of food product. It is extremely difficult for consumers to assess their exposure to risks in each food product and to accurately articulate their demand for safety. They believe what the food vendors tell them. In the Western countries, food safety regulations are very strict and millions of dollars are fined as penalty, if food safety is breached. Furthermore jail sentences are also specified for and negligence (tort) suits are lodged in the courts for compensation for breach of safety of food. Bangladesh is a tropical country and for nine months the temperature is warm. Experts say that warm temperature is ideal for bacteria to grow quickly unless strict preventative measures are in place. Another regrettable culture pervades is to get "quick money", by hook or by crook. Food borne illness (food poisoning) is mainly caused by pathogenic (harmful) bacteria, virus, or chemical toxins in food or water. Some of these microbes infect our bodies and grow. The end result is illness and in very severe cases food poisoning may even cause death. Experts say that food that looks, smells and taste fine can cause food poisoning, if it has not been correctly prepared with genuine ingredients or not handled correctly or has been contaminated in some way. A great proportion of breaches of food safety lie in introduction of artificial or hazardous substances in food products or a food handler preparing food without washing their hands property. Although statistics are hard to get in Bangladesh, it is estimated that millions suffer from a food related illness each year, many of which are not reported. Only deaths due to food poisoning are covered in media. The cases of food poisoning can occur with a wide range of
FAO and WHO membercountries expressed their desire for a forum to be held where they could exchange information and experiences on food safety issues that are critical importance to consumers. handled. colour in the food product. prepared. In some countries detailed and exhaustive guidelines are there for restaurants as to how to handle food safety. protected from contamination. WHO has a continuing commitment to the fundamental principle that ensuring food safety is an essential activity and an integral part of any public health programme. and (iv) lack of knowledge of food safety requirements. Both the Articles imply food safety requirements for consumers and the State must ensure through enactment of appropriate laws. The street vendors. although a possible source of food poisoning outbreaks. In areas where food is exposed. This is a meager amount compared to their profits earned by adulteration in . are a necessary part of modern urban life. including food. International action on food safety The 1996 World Food Summit Rome Declaration reaffirms the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food. take-away or in restaurant. (ii) personal hygiene of street vendors. Street-foods Street foods are an important source and way of life in cities. affordable to poor ( rickshaw pullers and others who do manual jobs). such as the kitchen." The WHO (World Health Organisation) Assembly in 2000 adopted a resolution calling upon WHO and its member-states (Bangladesh included) to recognize food safety systems for the reduction of health risk along the entire food chain. This includes food handlers but also other people who visit the premises. FAO ( Food and Agriculture Organisation) has always given high priority to programmes and activities dealing with food quality. On many occasions. practical steps must be taken including restricting people who are not food handlers and maintenance of personal hygiene. Street vendors in road corners generally offer foods at a cheap price. The current law is Pure Food Ordinance of 1959. There are institutes who provide training and information on food safety to food handlers. the ingredient for food must be genuine. The lack of control of authorities and the vendors' lack of knowledge about safe food may often result in potentially dangerous health risks to consumers One study in Malaysia found that consumers face problems at street vendors' food products: (i) no safe water for drinking. fresh from market and no adulteration of oil or any other toxic substance introduced in food products. Furthermore. Bangladesh and food safety laws Article 15 of the Bangladesh Constitution states that it shall be a fundamental responsibility of the State to secure provision of the basic necessities of life. The risk of food poisoning can be virtually eliminated if the food is properly prepared. Sections 273-274 of the Bangladesh Penal Code make adulteration of food products a minor crime.foods whether it is manufactured. and consumer protection. One of the laws BSTI-Act of 2003 carries a punishment of one lakh Taka (100. Article 18 of the Constitution states that the State shall raise the level of nutrition and improve public health as among its primary duties. Food businesses Food businesses must do all they can to make sure that people on their premises do not contaminate food. Staff and their supervisors must know about issues associated with food safety and safe food handling practices.000 taka). Skills and knowledge for businesspeople on food safety are imperative. stored correctly and re-heated to the correct temperature. The World Food Summit Plan of Action recognizes that : " Food security exists when all people have sufficient and safe food to meet their needs. (iii) non-permitted use of food additives or substances. safety.
The vegetables may retain some trace of arsenic component in fresh vegetables as well. Strengthening of infrastructures ensuring food safety is never static. The City Corporation Act has not any tangible effect because of lenient penalty. Fish. Strengthening infrastructures includes getting adequate trained personnel and expertise as well. one may easily find that fish are dying. Often food safety is connected with the level of economic development and prosperity. Degradation of environment and source of food There is also broader picture with regard to safety of food in Bangladesh. All the lakes and rivers in and around Dhaka are reportedly being contaminated by pollutants including industrial and human wastes.meal therefore from polluted lakes and rivers poses a great health risk for consumers. Bangladesh authorities need adequate infrastructures including laboratory services for inspectors. such as 50lacs to one crore fine depending on the severity of the offence and fine and imprisonment for several years. floating on top of the lake because of high level of toxins. Action suggested The food adulteration offence needs to be strengthened with heavy penalties. It is an on-going process to ensure food safety for consumers. It is often reported that amount of small fine does not deter the perpetrators from adulterating food product. If some one looks at the Gulshan lake. Conclusion Developing countries suffer from the problem of food safety. However. It is commendable to note that mobile courts are in patrol to stop food adulteration and punish perpetrators. food safety is not their priority.present days. This means that the best protection of consumers is to make informed choices and lessen the chances of exposure to potential toxins by eating polluted fish and arsenic-laced vegetables. governments have constitutional obligations to ensure food safety to its people and punish perpetrators with fines or imprisonment that may prevent them from adulteration of food. Another concern is whether arsenic water is used for irrigation of producing vegetables in the country. It is reported that mobile courts under two magistrates have imposed fine more than one million (ten lac) Taka and sentenced nearly 200 persons to imprisonment ( maximum sentence is six months under current laws). Furthermore A Consumer Protection Act needs to be in place wherein food safety standards are to be enumerated in the schedule of the Act. . So long majority of people of Bangladesh is poor. Accordingly institutions and laws need constant upgrading to meet the needs of time.
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