The High Court Division’s summoning the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority chair asking him to explain to the court on June 16 his failure to withdraw and destroy the 52 food products of 43 companies so far detected to have been substandard is assuring. But it shows that the Food Safety Authority mandated to ensure safe food for people has failed in its task. The court rebuked the chief of the agency and asked him to explain in two weeks why contempt proceedings would not be drawn against him for not complying with the May 12 court order for the withdrawal and destruction of the substandard food products. The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution on May 2 declared 52 food products manufactured by 43 companies, out of 313 samples of the collected 406 for tests, unfit for human consumption as they could have grave impact on public health. The court on May 9 directed the Standards and Testing Institution and the Food Safety Authority to explain to court the action that they had taken against the sales of the 52 substandard food products and on May 12 ordered the Food Safety Authority and the consumer rights protection directorate to withdraw the products from the market and destroy them.
The Standards and Testing Institution has so far suspended licences of different companies stopping them from marketing 43 of the products and cancelled licences of nine other companies. The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection also sized some substandard products from the market. But in the event of the failure of the Food Safety Authority, which its lawyer in the court on Thursday put down to the shortage of employees for Dhaka, the court rebuked the agency’s chief. The court also wanted to know from the agency why the 17 employees that the agency has for Dhaka failed to seize a single of the substandard food products, even from a big chain shop outlet which is located near the agency’s office at Eskaton in Dhaka. It has almost been customary for public agencies to put down their failures to the shortage of human resources for years now. While the Food Safety Authority appears to have so far been indolent about food safety in the capital city, its steps for ensuring safe food outside Dhaka also appear to be perfunctory and, therefore, unacceptable. The authorities have told the court that deputy commissioners have been requested to take steps to withdraw substandard food products from the market and stop companies from manufacturing them. When the agency itself, on the excuse of shortage of employees, keeps off doing anything, it is unlikely that offices of the deputy commissioners that have multifarious tasks would and could do the job, especially when there is no focused directive.
The Food Safety Authority, in what has so far happened, must, therefore, pull up its socks and lift a finger to stop companies from manufacturing and marketing unsafe food products at least for being worthy of the name. The agency must draw up a comprehensive plan and get down to withdrawing the substandard food products from the market and destroy them early, if required with additional human resources borrowed from other agencies.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Editorial