Bangladesh’s media have been reporting numerous cases of big scale food adulteration in the last few years. But the recent verdict by a joint bench of the High Court ordering 52 substandard products to be removed from the market is unprecedented.
However, we have seen in the past that no meaningful action has been taken against the culprits despite High Court orders. It is natural to expect that the authorities will do something against the people or organisations responsible, especially when there is a clear directive from a government agency. But sadly, that usually does not happen, which leaves the consumers frustrated and they feel helpless.
We will expect the government to make sure that those products are withdrawn from the market and stern steps are taken against those companies. Some of them have argued that their products meet the required standard, even going on to questioning the BSTI test. We expect the government to intervene and do something about this.
This particular incident tells us once again that the country’s law and order situation is not at its best. The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) was established to identify public health hazards. It is not that there are no organisations to look into such cases of food adulteration. This government has formulated Consumers Rights Act and established Bangladesh Food Safety Authority.
The Safe Food Law of 2013 has given the authorities executive power. There are courts dedicated to ensuring food safety, too. But they have not been filing cases. One of the key reasons is that they cannot file a case without the approval of the food department.
Earlier, National Food Safety Laboratory found adulterated cow milk and yogurt. Three months back the High Court had ordered the chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission to find out how antibiotic, microbial, pesticide and lead were present in milk and yogurt samples.
The court also ordered to form a committee to investigate and find out who are behind the adulteration of milk, yogurt and cow feed at the first place.
In 2011 and 2012, two High Court benches ordered to take stern actions against the people behind mixing formalin in fish and fruits.
These high court orders may show progress on paper but in reality there the consumers do not get much.
Every year during the first few days of Ramadan a hype of a campaign against adulteration takes place and after a few days it wanes.
On 13 May, three renowned restaurants in the city’s Gulshan and Banani area were fined for storing rotten and date-expired food items, which is a clear indication that the country is facing big health hazards.
In 2014, the opposition leader had said that in the parliament that our prime minister’s willingness is enough to address food adulteration. Five years later, it has not changed much.
The hearing on a writ regarding the 52 adulterated products is scheduled to take place on 23 May. We hope that the government will abide by the court’s order and publish advertisements in the newspapersordering those products be removed from the market.