A vital measure of a people is the quality of food it eats. On that count, the peoples in the underdeveloped parts of the world certainly do not fare well. Endemic poverty has forced many to compromise on the quality of food. If this cannot be overcome without a desired level of economic development, there is also a man-made danger countries like Bangladesh are afflicted with. This is food adulteration. Here is a deliberate attempt to poison food items with the sole ulterior motive of maximising profit by businesspeople and traders. In the past, commodities of inferior quality were mixed with finer varieties in order to deceive consumers. Today, sophisticated technology and reagents are used for fooling consumers. The practice in Bangladesh market is so widespread that most items from vegetables to cooking oil to shampoo to medicine are suspect. No matter how much people may try to be on guard, there is no guarantee they will remain immune from doses of adulterated consumer goods.
Now several groups of rights activists, who have been campaigning against food adulteration, last Saturday (May 19) brought to public notice the contrived exercise by the supply chain of foods prior to or during the festival time. At this time growers and traders expect windfall profit and therefore use artificial means to ripen fruits, grow sought-after vegetables by applying excessive fertilizer or other chemicals. How outrageous! There is no harm in making reasonable profit but this must not be conditional to marketing items on manipulation. This is exactly where a section of growers and animal breeders use harmful agents to grow vegetables well ahead of time and fatten animals for the two biggest festivals respectively. So here is another dimension to profiteering.
So far as the official attempt to curb adulteration is concerned, it is limited to the capital and a few urban centres. True, the flattening of tonnes of artificially ripened mangoes under bulldozers over the past few years has had an impact on the random sale of the fruit. Yet it has not come to an end. Already, the service of bulldozers had to be called for destroying a few tonnes of mangoes from Sadarghat and Mirpur. But such exercises will be less effective unless stringent measures are taken at the sources. Monitoring of mango orchards by upazila and district administration paid dividend. There is no scope for slackening the vigil.
Poisoning food deliberately is a crime and it should be treated so. If a person is poisoned to death, it is a case of homicide. But those who poison the entire nation, severely harming the health and well-being of all who consume the adulterated items should be meted out more stringent punishment. But whatever law is there has little application. There lies the weakness of the system. Regular monitoring and testing can help identify the culprits. Once identified and awarded the punishment they deserve, it will act as a deterrent. The administration should pull up its sock in order to do this because involved here is the nation's health and future.
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