The National Board of Revenue in a submission to the High Court (HC) has informed that testing units for chemical test of imported fruits have been set up at all ports. In another submission to the HC the Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI) has also made it explicit that no carbide or formalin was found in the samples of seasonal fruits in the local market. The BSTI further reveals that it had made 114 drives of which 69 were carried out in Dhaka and the rest in Narsingdi, a fruit producing belt. The submissions have been made complying with the HC order which were delivered following a writ petition by the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, a human rights and environmental organisation. So far as the setting up of the testing units is concerned, it is a highly positive development.
However, the clean chit the BSTI has given to locally produced fruits is unlikely to make the public confident of the safety of those items for human health. In case of milk, the BSTI also found nothing wrong but successive laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of unacceptable levels of anti-biotic and lead in samples of milk collected from market in packets and without packet. The question is, has the BSTI the required testing facilities for the detection of anti-biotic and harmful metals in milk and other foods? The testing and approving body tests milk on nine parameters whereas in India they put milk to tests on 21-23 parameters. There is need for making it public on how many parameters the BSTI brings various fruits under scrutiny. At the same time, animal products which are prone to bacterial contamination from various sources need rigorous test to be ascertained that those are safe for human consumption.
In this regard, Agriculture Minister Dr. Abdur Razzak's disclosure at a workshop on food safety in South Asia held in the capital truly reflects the concern about food safety. The minister has stated that a quality laboratory would be set up in Dhaka in order to ensure that foods are safe and at the same time nutritious. No one can agree more with the minister's assertion that the country has been able to ensure foods for its citizen but now the challenge is to make those full of nutrients and safe for human body. Food adulteration and various malpractices involving foods' preparation, production, handling, marketing and sale frustrate the objective of making the eatables safe.
Evidently, the need is to have a high quality central testing laboratory for food. Then the simple testing kits for certain foods like fruits and vegetables should be made available at all strategic points in order to know if farmers have used excessive fertilisers or applied pesticide above the recommended level and within date. If vegetables and fruits are brought to market within two or three days after pesticide spray, these can be dangerous for human health. Fruit and vegetable producers must be familiarised with such basic knowledge if attaining food safety is the ultimate objective.
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