The Financial Express

Adulterated food poses threat to public health

| Updated: October 15, 2021 16:44:55

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Rampant food adulteration in Bangladesh puts people's life and health at risk although the government's relevant departments have stepped up their efforts to curb the menace.

People have to bear an additional healthcare expenditure, putting severe impact on the socio-economic condition as the menacing food adulteration has put public health in jeopardy.

Meat, fish, fruits, oil, vegetables, spices, bakery items, and sweetmeats are being tainted severely, according to BFSA officials.

In the fiscal year (FY) 2020-21, the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) in its report said it found 268 substandard food samples after testing 2,354 in lab.

A total of 196 samples were found substandard in FY 2019-2020 after testing 1,731, it revealed.

The BFSA also inspected a total of 19,969 food establishments and industrial units in the country in FY 2020-21.

It found potassium bromate (KBrO3) in bread after collecting them from open markets. KBrO3 is an oxidizing agent used as a food additive which causes kidney damage.

A latest study, conducted by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, found that households bear some 93 per cent of the total cost of illness for senior citizens as out-of-pocket (OOP) payment, highest in South Asia.

On July 24 in 2019, the BFSA filed cases against 10 companies as it identified heavy detrimental substances in their pasteurised milk, following a High Court (HC) move.

The HC on May 12 in 2019 directed the authorities concerned to remove 52 food items of different brands from the market as Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) detected them as substandard in quality tests.

Earlier, the Institute of Public Health Bangladesh in its recent study detected contamination in 43 consumer goods.

While talking to the FE, Dr Abdur Razzaque Sarker, a research fellow at BIDS, said food contamination remains a significant contributor to OOP healthcare expenditure as one has to purchase some 64-68 per cent of medicines of his/her total cost.

"Undoubtedly, it puts substantial impact on the socio-economic condition," he added.

Noting that food adulteration was jeopardizing the whole nation along with the next generation, experts say such contaminated and unsafe foods are causing a number of acute and lifelong diseases from diarrhoea to variants of cancer.

Talking to the FE, Dr Md Habibullah Talukder Ruskin, associate professor at National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH), said tainted food causes cancer, asthma and skin diseases besides neurological impairment.

"Contaminated food is one of the main causes of cancer," he added.

A latest report released in December 2020 revealed that Bangladesh witnessed a significant increase in the number of new cancer patients during the period from 2015 to 2017.

BFSA Chairman Md. Abdul Kayowm Sarker said the authority spares no efforts to curb food contamination within the purview of the existing law.

There was a substantial rise in food contamination despite stepped up efforts and regular drives, he said, adding that they could not widen their operation as expected due to the pandemic.

He also stressed the need for creating awareness among the people, manufacturers and businesspeople aiming to prevent food adulteration.

Terming it a matter of multi-stakeholders' endeavours, he pointed out that it was tough to monitor the market and strengthen the enforcement of laws from the city to remote areas with such a handful of manpower.

Some amendments to the law are underway to curb the menace, he added.

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