Lack of logistic support and coordination among institutions responsible for ensuring safe food are hurting the safe food campaign, said food safety inspector Mohammad Kamrul Hasan.
Bangladesh Food Safety Authority has 728 safe food inspectors working in the country.
Kamrul said that these inspectors need to spend from their pockets to buy samples for tests at laboratories.
‘This is a big obstacle in ensuring safe food,’ said Kamrul.
After a food sample is found substandard, the safe food inspectors once again need to bear expenses of a number of necessities such as preparing documents for filing cases, he said.
The money needed to send food samples for tests at laboratories is also paid by inspectors.
‘Some of the expenses are pretty small but it becomes a burden for inspectors who have so many cases of substandard foods at hand,’ said Kamrul.
He said that most of the safe food inspectors’ workplaces lack photocopying facilities and the inspectors need to depend on computer cafes to prepare their case documents.
Then comes the problem of getting test results in time, he said.
Most of the laboratories fail to maintain the deadline set in the safe food act to deliver test reports, delaying prosecution, said Kamrul.
He however is lucky to be posted at a workplace such as Dhaka South City Corporation which has its own laboratory and bears expenses required for collecting samples and preparing documents.
Last year Kamrul filed 105 cases but his colleagues were far behind him as long as prosecution was concerned.
‘Food safety inspectors need to overcome a great deal of obstacles before they become able to prosecute some food adulterators,’ he said.
Big businesses have their ways of issuing threats to food safety inspectors, he said.
Kamrul said that authorities should organise more training enabling food safety inspectors to be more innovative in detecting food frauds and overcoming obstacles in their way.
Kamrul has been the prosecutor of the 61 companies accused of manufacturing 73 items of uneatable foods last year.
The cases were filed based on tests conducted by Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution.
But the BSTI remained silent when Kamrul asked for their help to prosecute the companies by sending evidence and necessary lab reports.
Kamrul needed to move back and forth between the court and the BSTI to get test reports but he was surprised to know that BSTI did not preserve tested samples as evidence.
‘The BSTI case makes it clear that there is a lack of coordination among institutions working to ensure safe food,’ said Kamrul.
He said that the ultimate authority to certify food quality should be given to BFSA being the central point of food regulation in the country.
Kamrul however believed that last year was nightmarish for dishonest food businessmen in the country.
He said that last year they were successful in sending food businessmen the message that their days were numbered.
Kamrul seems hopeful. ‘It may take some time to reach to the point when all foods are safe but it will definitely be achieved,’ he said.
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