Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution’s director general Muazzem Hossain said that they were not able to preserve evidences in many cases related to substandard foods for not having enough spaces.
He said that evidences like big water jars need large space to preserve and they did not have enough space to keep such evidence intact for years.
‘Space is a big problem for us. We cannot keep thousands of water jars preserved for years,’ said Muazzem.
Though, he said that ‘test report provided by the BSTI should be considered as the ultimate evidence.’
He made the comment trying to defend the national standards enforcing agency’s decision to destroy all evidence relating to the prosecution of 61 companies accused of marketing 73 products last year.
A court dealing with food standards recently flew into rage as the BSTI prepared for destroying the evidences and said that the destruction was predetermined to save dishonest businesses.
Most of the destroyed samples in question were not the size of water jars as claimed by the BSTI chief.
The samples included cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli powders, chips, mustard oil, lachchhasemai, noodles, biscuit, ghee, salt, suji and curd.
‘I think the BSTI lab test report should be enough evidence to prove someone’s crime,’ said Muazzaem.
But the food safety act of 2013 under which the 61 companies were accused of producing uneatable foods requires samples to be preserved for bringing manipulators of food qualities to book.
The act states that four samples of a product need to be collected, two of them for tests at laboratory, one should be kept sealed with the manufacturer and the regulator should preserve the other one sealed for future legal use.
The BSTI told the food court that they preserve evidence in connection with cases filed under their law.
The BSTI chief Muazzem Hossain did not have an answer to the question how names of innocent people appeared on the list forwarded by the BSTI for prosecution to Bangladesh Food Safety Authority.
‘There might be mistakes for we operate under many limitations,’ said Muazzem.
About 95 per cent of packaged food business operates without any certification in the country as only 72 food products are considered mandatory by the BSTI.
Mandatory products are those items which require prior BSTI permission.
Thousands of other products are out of the BSTI’s examination and the standards enforcing authority does not have standards for many of them had their producers asked for voluntary certification.
Muazzem said that they select the list of mandatory products on the basis of their demand in public life.
The BSTI does not consider products like Horlicks mandatory products despite their widespread consumption.
‘Law gives us limited jurisdiction. We cannot do anything about it,’ said Muazzem.
He however is against increasing the BSTI’s jurisdiction for it could not be handled in its limited capacities.
The BSTI has more than 600 officers and staffs working in eight divisional and three district offices.
Muazzems aid that companies get their green signal to go ahead with production only after fulfilling a set of criteria put in place to ensure people’s safety.
He admitted that their market monitoring was not enough for they cannot test samples enough to represent the whole market.
He said that the BSTI law also prevents them from filing a case against companies for producing substandard products without giving them a chance to improve.
After every test finding a product substandard, the BSTI issues show cause notice against the company producing it and give them a deadline to improve.
The BSTI cancels manufacturing licenses only after a product fails to pass a second test, which rarely happens.
Muazzem called on businessmen to act responsibly and not to become the reason for harming lives of people.
He said that private businesses should have their own mechanism of testing and producing standard products.
‘Food safety is a big and complex issue. It is not possible for the BSTI alone to ensure safe food,’ said Muazzem.
‘We all have a role to play and a long way to go to get safe food,’ said Muazzem.
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