The bleak fact that date expired medicines are found at 93 per cent of drug stores in Dhaka squares with the oft-published news reports on the malady. The latest revelation made by a senior government official is disconcerting. It defies belief that the residents of the capital are being deceived by ineffectual medicines sold by a section of drug outlets. What it proves is intermittent media coverage on newspapers and television footage on the issue have so far proved futile. The medicine retail shops are apparently having their heyday -- by taking recourse to a deceitful practice.
The official of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) was speaking at a discussion in the city in observance of the World Food Safety Day 2019 recently. Bangladesh Supermarket Owners Association and the state-run Bangladesh Food Safety Foundation jointly organised the event. Given the organisers' standing and their presumed capability to put forward strong recommendations on reining in various malpractices, the programme merits special focus. For its part, DNCRP can wield the preventive power at its disposal in favour of the unwitting and ignorant consumers. Along with other related agencies, the directorate is expected to play a proactive role in preventing syndicates behind production of unsafe food and hazardous medicines. That its monitoring teams have identified 93 per cent of Dhaka's pharmacies selling date-expired drugs is a commendable feat. These ineffective drugs are allegedly kept mixed with fresh drugs. These actions of seizure ought to be followed by punitive and preventive measures. More often than not, this imperative eludes the authorities concerned.
The country has a food safety law in force. Its virtual non-application makes it veritably pointless. As the vice president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) has said at the programme that law cannot be made effective owing to the lack of a 'world-class laboratory'. Moreover, the execution of the law warrants expertise on different aspects of the foods concerned on the part of the enforcers. Wholesale dumping of inedible food items and slapping of fines on the sellers have been of little use in view of recurrence of the menace in a routine manner. The situation thus calls for innovative and foolproof preventive measures. There is an interesting point that deserves to be mentioned. Although the country has observed the World Food Safety Day 2019 with the slogan 'Safe food for all', it still continues to face a formidable challenge in supplying safe food to people. Ironically, this occurs against the backdrop of the country's continued increase in food production. It's common knowledge that food self-sufficiency is meaningless without safe food being ensured.
Purchase of date-expired medicines falls among the misfortunes plaguing a nation. In the case of Bangladesh, blaming unscrupulous quarters wholesale for the atrocious act may not work. A section of drug-store owners, both in Dhaka and outside are compulsively devoid of scruples. They will continue to devise newer means of how to sell date-expired medicines if caught in their old ways. Only the drug buyers' awareness can make a great difference here. Before buying medicines, they should make sure the date of expiry is clearly mentioned on the packets. And they must use the particular drug much before the date expires.