LENIENT punitive measures, an endemic culture of impunity which is born out of legal leniency, food business and lack of consumer awareness are said to be major reasons, as New Age reported on Friday referring to what a range of stakeholders said, for food adulteration that has continued for long. The agencies responsible for ensuring food safety sometimes run episodic mobile courts but such initiatives have hardly become successful in stopping food adulteration. Restaurant and bakery owners, in a situation like this, feel that mobile courts that about half a dozen government agencies run against food adulteration are mostly publicity stunts that have failed to get to the reasons for adulteration and to attend to them effectively. People in food trade, therefore, believe that sustained drives against food adulteration simultaneously across the country could improve the situation. A former chair of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Consumers Association of Bangladesh is reported to have termed inadequate the financial penalty of Tk 2 million, in maximum, for the offence of food adulteration as laid out in the Food Safety Act 2013. Poor or no enforcement of more than a dozen laws that exist to ensure food safety is also believed to have given rise to the situation at hand.
A case in example of this is the initial inaction of the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority and the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection which had done nothing about 52 food products of different brands by 43 companies that the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institutions on May 2 declared substandard and could entail harmful impact on public health. The court had to intervene in the process, asking the authorities concerned to withdraw the products from the market and destroy them. Even after this, the food products in question, as New Age reported, are on sales in the capital. Special drives that city authorities, Standards and Testing Institution, Food Safety Authority and the consumer rights protection directorate are running in view of Ramadan fined on Thursday a chain shop outlet at Farmgate in Dhaka Tk 1,00,000 and a restaurant Tk 2,00,000 for freezing meat in an unhealthy condition. Cumulative non-enforcement of the food laws over the years has taken food adulteration to such a dangerous pass. Lack of awareness, among consumers and, perhaps, even producers, has only compounded it. This all has happened, but not overnight.
The government, in such a situation, must be stringent in enforcing the food laws and alert the stakeholders, which involve more than a dozen ministries, to food adulteration. But the government must do all this after drawing up a comprehensive approach. And the government must be vigilant against food adulteration round-the-year and all over Bangladesh at the same time. In doing so, the government must see that the punitive measures, financial or otherwise, must be deterrent. The government must also run awareness campaign, putting an adequately strong grievance resolution mechanism in place, for consumers as much as for producers of food products.
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