The High Court Division’s directive for the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection to hold drives all over the country against violations of the rights of consumers is welcome as the marketing of substandard food products even in rural areas still continues, with none to check the serious crimes that affect public health. The court in response to a public interest litigation writ petition filed by the Conscious Consumers’ Society on Sunday also directed the directorate to widen its drive against any violation of consumer rights, including illegal bus fare increase, sales of adulterated food and medicine and lawyers charging high fees from clients. What sounds healthy is that the court directed the directorate to open round-the-clock hotline in two months to listen to consumer complaints. The directives include another ruling which says that the directorate must let consumers lodge complaints by dialling emergency numbers round-the-clock until hotlines are opened.
Another significant directive by the court is that the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution has to continue testing food products at random to find out whether they meet the standards. The court rightly expressed annoyance at the fact that there had been allegations of underhand dealings before the tests and the re-tests were done by the standards institution. The court sounded a warning that the institution and its officials would be sent to jail and not to the Anti-Corruption Commission on receipt of further irregularities. As the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority’s chair apologised for a failure to withdraw and destroy 52 substandard food products of 43 companies, the court discharged him from the contempt of court charge on the condition that he would never flout court orders and continue holding drives against substandard food products and keep the court informed of the drives. The court on May 23 issued the contempt rule against the Food Safety Authority chair asking him to explain by June 16 why he would not be punished for contempt of the court for not complying with its May 12 order to remove and destroy the substandard food products and take action against the manufacturers.
It is, indeed, horrendous to find that markets are swamped with substandard or adulterated processed food items. It seems a section of unscrupulous businessmen have thrown off their conscience and gone the whole hog to steal money using devious means. One can only hope that the Food Safety Authority and other agencies responsible for safe food and food safety will comply with the court directives and enforce relevant laws as there should be no scope for leniency towards food frauds. The government also must run campaigns to make consumers aware of substandard or adulterated food products.
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