Isn't it surprising that like many occasional drives against various crimes, the fight against unsafe food, too, has assumed the character of a seasonal activity? While this should have been a continuous and unrelenting activity round the year across the country, sporadic and infrequent moves here and there, leave no permanent impact on the sellers and producers of spurious food items of all varieties. Newspaper reports say that the drive against food adulteration is currently on in the capital, launched last week. The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), the state watchdog to regulate the sector is reportedly monitoring the capital's food markets under the supervision of an executive magistrate.
One has reasons to question the rationale behind the drive in the capital alone, that too with just one magistrate. The effectiveness of the drive is bound to cause nothing more than a ripple with mobile courts punishing a few sweetmeat shops, restaurants and if at all, some kitchen market sellers. The fact that such drives, sporadic and half-hearted, failed to bring any discipline in the country's food market cannot be disputed. In the absence of corrective measures, punishing the offenders-at times by way of hefty monetary penalties-is not an appropriate method of dealing with the problem. A properly institutionalised mechanism with sufficient manpower and regular monitoring round the year can only bring things to some semblance of order.
In this regard, it is important that the BSFA and other agencies such as the BSTI and the city corporations which also run such drives maintain a well-coordinated plan of action. It is also important that punitive actions should be backed by actions to improve the quality and standard of food of all varieties. To monitor the situation, inspection and sudden raids are welcome, but it must not be forgotten that inspection is just one of the many ways to rein in food adulteration.
While contamination of food may be due to negligence, deliberate adulteration by toxic chemicals or radioactive materials for long shelf life of products and increasing the volume in size and weight-among the many crooked methods-is so rampant that it is difficult to find anyone who does not encounter an unpleasant moment of food-related illness at least once a year. Taking care of the situation thus calls for a whole package of initiatives. In advanced countries this involves producing, handling, storing and preparing foods in such a way as to prevent infection and contamination in the entire chain. However, in situations prevailing in this country, it is not merely about maintaining a clean chain but putting in strong deterrents so that criminality in the business could be stopped. Sources of harmful stuffs must be plugged, if necessary, by way of ban on imports or local production. Strong advocacy on the detrimental effects of consumption should be routinely done. At the same time, training on safe and scientific methods of preservation of food products should also be a high priority in an attempt to curb adulteration.
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