Battling adulteration  

Published: July 21, 2019 22:06:30 | Updated: July 23, 2019 21:56:15

Adulteration of food items with unhygienic substances in this country has finally degraded into the mixing of edibles with things harmful to humans. They include toxic and purely hazardous objects. Take the cases of powdered dried chili and turmeric. They have long been singled out for their being mixed with crude colourant like brick dust and synthetic dyes. Most often they prove to be unfit for human consumption. Beginning with the consumption of milk, the oldest target of the adulterators, and going through rice, mustard and other types of oil to molasses and sugar, the rural areas, and the nation in general, have been used to extraordinary types of adulteration. We must add here the chemically treated fruits. Coming to cities, the less said about the ever-increasing crooked and defiant manner of adulteration of food items the better. The common substance chosen for mixing milk with in this country has for ages been roadside water, no matter whether it is sourced from a derelict pond or a dying canal.

Few in the country having a semblance of scruple could ever think that the various forms of milk would one day end up being a target of such disingenuous adulteration.  As per the recent reports of a contemporary, the outcry began after researchers led by former director of the Biomedical Research Centre at Dhaka University detected four antibiotics and detergent in milk. The packaged milk included both pasteurised and non-pasteurised milk. As has been expected, the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) dismissed the finding of the DU researchers. The related government authorities dared the researchers to authenticate their findings. The second test came up with results similar to the first one.

Had it not been for the intervention of the High Court, the revelation would have died out. The HC promptly ordered the government to stop the sale of antibiotics for cattle without prescriptions from registered veterinaries. The higher court expressed its frustration over the authorities' failure to ensure safe food, including milk, and ordered the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) and BSTI to report back to the court on their actions against adulteration of milk, curd and cattle feed. An alarming aspect of the saga is that the outcry is not limited to milk only. According to experts, excessive lead and other harmful substances in milk might originate from cattle feed and contaminated soil. Lead can affect human liver, kidneys and bones. Processed cattle feed pose a similar risk. Given the country's alarming record of adulteration practices and the adulterators' getting away with them, the people unwittingly may have to brace for worse times.

Beginning from early February, the laboratory-based detection of lead, pesticides, antibiotics and harmful bacteria in raw cow milk and dairy products may have stunned the food researchers. With the test results becoming public, there are reasons for people to get confused. A hydra-headed monster may have entered the country's food chain. On being overtaken by ominous thoughts, lots of people might stop giving both packaged and raw milk to their children. All this is a grim child health concern. And if gone scot-free, the food adulterators will most likely have the hurrah. This is utterly unacceptable to a nation buzzing with scores of safe-food activists.

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