ALTHOUGH countries across the world celebrated World Standards Day themed ‘international standards and the fourth industrial revolution’ this year as the world tries to inspire thoughts on how to better regulate fields of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and smart manufacturing to shape societies in immediate future, Bangladesh still lacks standardisation for many of its popular food and agriculture or medical products. The alarming fact is that even standardised products are often found substandard or not containing right ingredients in them as set by the standards authorities in the absence of any mechanism to enforce standardisation codes. Consumers also doubt the effectiveness even of a weighing scale. In most cases, companies do not procure certification from the national standards authorities, Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, to launch new food products in Bangladesh. The soft drink industry, as New Age reported on Saturday, is growing by 30 per cent from year to year as standardisation certificate is not mandatory for companies as long as they are not producing carbonated beverages. Although the BSTI has standardised juice, fruit juice, and non-alcoholic beverages, many companies still produce different kinds of soft drinks without caring for any standards.
The Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Department of Narcotics Control detected harmful ingredients in 10 fruit juice brands and 57 energy drinks recently. In 2015, following laboratory tests, the BCSIR found the presence of sodium benzoate in them as preservatives at levels between twice and 10 times the permissible limit. 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 cause harm to humans. But the periodic tests that the Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh conducts find the presence of harmful and banned chemicals in food products almost routinely. Now the widely held belief is that consumer food products, ranging from packed spices and fruit juice to fruit, are adulterated to the extent of being poisoned as far as long-term public health is concerned. The BSTI also does not have standards for many chemicals being used in farming, preparation and preservation of food and agriculture products. Some unscrupulous traders use toxic chemicals, including carbide, to ripen bananas, mangoes, litchis, jackfruits and other fruit and textile dye to colour papaya, watermelon, litchis and other fruit and sell these chemically treated fruit. The disappointing fact is that neither the BSTI nor the BCSIR has the equipment to detect the use of harmful dye, formalin or pesticides in food items.
The purpose of World Standards Day is to enhance awareness of the significance of standardisation among industries, consumers, regulators and the government. Standardisation helps to confirm that all goods and products possess international standards, irrespective of their place of origin. Authorities, however, need to put in more efforts
to achieve this.
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