THE drives that the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority conducted against food contamination and adulteration in highway eateries on the Dhaka–Chattogram route in Tuesday–Wednesday bring to the fore a sorry state of food safety issues. The highway food business thrives as thousands of people, travelling from one district to another, eat in the restaurants each day paying hefty prices for products and services. The authorities have found expired food ingredients such as spices being used for cooking, vegetables and other cooking ingredients being stored on dirty, damp floors, and cooked and raw meat being preserved in the same refrigerators during its drive on the highway eateries. A sanitary inspector attending the drives says that most of the restaurants prepare food in kitchens that are in a poor, unhygienic condition and infested with pests. A number of restaurants have been fined for serving substandard food cooked in an unhygienic condition and a few restaurant managers were sent to jail for the breach of food regulations.
What makes it further worrying is that this is only the situation in restaurants on the Dhaka–Chattogram Highway. It is feared, and justifiably so, that the situation is also the same, or worse, in eateries on other highways. The recent drives on highway eateries also show the government’s failure to ensure food safety, which only adds to the government’s inability to efficiently manage the food market in general. The situation is similar, and sometimes even worse, in city restaurants and food courts which cater to thousands of people increasingly dependent on them because of a fast-paced and changing way of life. The restaurants and food courts usually charge higher compared with the services on offer, which often turn out to be poor and low-grade in quality as episodic drives against them reveal. Restaurant owners show a tendency of putting profit before quality at the expense of public health and get away with such errant practice in the absence of a coordinated system in place to check and regulate food safety standards. Food safety authorities run episodic drives and become active only in Ramadan and before Eid. For the rest of the year, the authorities operate in a business-as-usual mode and turn a blind eye to the blatant violation of food safety regulations. The government should realise that such piecemeal approaches will not help to achieve a nationwide food safety.
The government must, under the circumstances, step up to the plate and shore up issues of food safety on all fronts. The government must ensure an effective coordination among the agencies responsible for regulating food safety standards. The government must also redouble its efforts to effectively regulate eateries both in and outside the city and punish the violators deterrently. Unless an effective and sustainable regulatory system is put in place, food safety will continue to remain elusive.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Editorial