THAT the sodium chloride of industrial grade is used to colour foods shows that the practice of adulteration, instead of being stopped, has worked out its way insidiously to take an unassailable stand. The use of non-food-grade chemicals to add colours to food items poses serious threat to public health. Food caterers use, as experts say, such chemicals in foods illegally to maximise profits because of the failure of government agencies to enforce the law and monitor food outlets. The Rapid Action Battalion during several drives found the use of harmful textile dye to add colours to pulao, zarda and other food items. The consumption of food coloured with industrial sodium chloride would damage liver and kidney besides causing ulcer and allergies in humans.
The Bangladesh Pure Food Ordinance 2005 prohibits the use of any poisonous chemicals or ingredients such as calcium carbide, formalin, patricides or toxic colour or flavour in any food, which may harm humans. But the periodic tests that the Consumers Association of Bangladesh conducts find the presence of harmful and banned chemicals in food products. These reports confirm the widely-held belief that consumer food products are adulterated to the extent of being poisoned as far as long-term public health is concerned. It is, indeed, a horrendous experience to find markets around swamped with adulterated food items for the very thought of consuming this food gives one jitters. It seems that a section of unscrupulous businessmen have thrown off their conscience and gone the whole hog to steal money using devious means. Special anti-adulteration drives seem necessary under the present circumstances as the food laws are not obeyed or enforced and no monitoring by the agencies concerned is done. That a free-for-all is prevailing in food industry, food trade and catering business is evident from a few surprise drives. And being special drives, mobile courts cannot be a substitute for constant monitoring of food items the public consumes. Mobile courts do not issue licence for manufacturing or selling food; so, the onus primarily lies on the licensing authorities — the city corporation or the municipalities as the case may be and the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution — to keep a constant watch.
Neither the BSTI nor the Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has the equipment to detect the use of harmful dye in food items. As the problem is massive, the mobile courts and the agencies concerned will have to set their priority aright. It is certainly important to ensure freshness of food but it is far more urgent to stop the use of toxic chemicals by taking legal action against aberrant businessmen.
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