Bangladesh needs to increase its food testing capacity manifold to get unsafe food out of the market, said Bangladesh Food Safety Authority member Monzur Morshed Ahmed.
He said that major government laboratories had very limited scope for tests for they could handle a very limited number of test parameters, many of which are not accredited.
‘Laboratories need to have protocol to run tests under specific parameters. Our laboratories can cover very few parameters,’ said Monzur.
Major food testing laboratories in Bangladesh are based in Dhaka. The BFSA has designated ten laboratories that are acceptable in courts as evidence.
The laboratories include Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial researches, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, Institute of Public Health, two laboratories owned by city corporations in Dhaka and Chattogram and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute.
BFSA’s activities depend largely on these laboratories as it does not have a laboratory of its own.
There were a number of private laboratories where the BFSA went for running the tests and there were times when the designated laboratories failed to provide the services required, he pointed out.
‘Capacities of both public and private food testing laboratories would have to be improved simultaneously,’ said Monzur.
He said that lack of food testing facilities was pulling the food safety campaign from behind but the skills of testing food is sophisticated and cannot be attained overnight.
‘The food safety authority was established only four years ago. We are still a child,’ said Monzur.
Food safety inspectors working across Bangladesh face a lot of troubles in accessing laboratory facilities for they need to send samples to Dhaka most of the times.
The poorly equipped inspectors need to sort ways of preserving samples first before they send it for tests in Dhaka laboratories.
Monzur said that in developing countries it usually takes longer than usual in improving services like food testing compared to developed countries.
‘In developing countries improving food testing capacity is not an issue of utmost priority. Developing communication infrastructure gets far more attention,’ said Monzur.
Amidst all these technical limitations, the BFSA has recruited more than 100 staff to collect samples from across the country. The process of appointing 100 other technical hands is underway.
The officers would engage in researches and improving methodologies for tests at laboratories.
Even the limited number of laboratories does not operate properly hampering the safe food campaign further.
The laboratory testing samples for both north and south city corporations in Dhaka remained closed for two years for the government failed to appoint an analyst for them.
Monzur said that it became increasingly challenging for them to lead the safe food campaign against high expectation of people.
‘We are working hard to ensure food safety. We request people to be patient. We are preparing to deliver,’ said Monzur.
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