In the context of a general apathy towards preparation, packaging and serving of foods in a safe and hygienic manner, the sixth BAPA FoodPro International Expo 2018 held in the capital should be considered a positive step. But at the same time, let it be admitted that the activities of the Bangladesh Agro-Processors Association (BAPA) is mostly confined to a limited area. Of late, a number of companies producing biscuits and bakery items on a mass scale have come on the scene. The competition is becoming fierce but there is no knowing how keen these producers are to maintain the highest order of hygiene and quality. A year ago one of the top bakeries was fined Tk 1,800,000 for using the unsold stale cakes and pastries with fresh dough. Such mischief is no monopoly to the bakery caught in the act, other industrial food production units are unlikely to be far behind in tinkering with compliance rules.
When question was raised about the quality of packet milk marketed by different companies from different quarters, samples were collected from several joints of the supply chain for laboratory tests. Several months have elapsed with no sign of the result of the tests coming out. Has it been shoved under the carpet? Indeed producers and traders are more concerned about raising their profit margins without so much caring for the impacts consumer goods have on the people. The so-called soft and fruit drinks, in particular, are the ones that are causing serious health hazards to consumers but no systematic effort has so far been expended to determine the extent of deleterious impacts. A lax attitude on the part of the authorities is responsible for encouraging producers to violate food safety rules.
However, commercial and industrial food production by now should have significantly come of age. The government has slapped heavy import duty on prepared food items ranging from roti-parota to cake-biscuit and from jam-jelly to corn flakes or dairy items. Local producers are marketing their own brands but most of those seem to be inferior in quality. Consumers are yet to take the local companies into confidence when it comes to chocolate bars or corn flakes. These are areas where things must improve in order to earn people's trust. Many of the low-quality breads, biscuits and cakes have customers because they cannot afford the quality items at a higher cost.
A handful of agro-processing companies have successfully marketed their fancied but quality-wise substandard items on the promotional strength of advertisements. But a rising standard of living demands that zero tolerance were followed in case of any compromise on quality of foods. Today, technologies and machinery are available for maintaining strict compliance rules for food preparation at industrial plants. That 117 entrepreneurs from 15 countries attended the exposition with their agro and food processing machinery is clear evidence that selection of the suitable ones from a wide choice is not difficult. The organisers are of the opinion that Bangladesh is in a position to explore food markets abroad. Surely, it can but to do so it must make quality control its number one priority.
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