A joke got currency for a while in this capital city. The joke was that if the Dhakaites ate something really unadulterated, it upset their stomachs. Why? Their stomachs have become habituated to eating and digesting the impure varieties of foods. All jokes, however, have an underlying message. The message here is loud and clear: hardly there is any food cent per cent pure. Next, it conveys that businesspeople have been taking consumers for a ride. And finally, the nation seems to have resigned to the fate of seeing no solution to this problem.
The miracle, though, is the rise of the nation's longevity amid the food adulteration epidemic. Suffering from chronic poverty and lack of nutrition with little or no healthcare and sanitation for a long phase of its history, the nation had an average longevity rate of 45-47 in the pre-liberation period. Now that rate has come to as high as 70. One wonders what would be the benchmark of longevity if the nation's food quality would have reached the levels the advanced nations have set for themselves.
Notwithstanding drives against it, the endemic adulteration shows no sign of relenting. Mobile courts have been operating sporadically throughout the year with little success. Imposition of fines, destruction of adulterated products and sealing the manufacturing units off leave hardly any impact on production of spurious foods, medicines or other items. In fact, the clandestine manufacture of look-alike commodities cannot be stopped without detection of sources. But when reputed brands market low quality goods as against the declared standard, there is indeed more cause for concern.
During Ramadan, the month of siam, most commodities enjoy a higher demand. Keeping this in view, traders not only increase production but also go for large-scale adulteration. To check this dishonest practice, reportedly, at least 10 mobile courts have been conducting drives in the country against food adulteration every day. Ten to 15 manufacturing units are found to be guilty of resorting to malpractices and are therefore fined or otherwise awarded punishment. Yet the malpractice goes on as before.
In a recent report, the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) has disclosed that a number of reputed companies have been producing and marketing low quality essentials. They are cheating their consumers who pay higher prices for their products in the belief that at least they are getting their money's worth. This is downright contemptible.
The latest news is that the Safe Food Authority has disclosed that out of 96 samples of liquid milk sent for laboratory test, 93 were found to have contained harmful contents. Of the packet milk, out of 31, 18 were found to have contained chemicals causing liver, kidney and other diseases. Milk is supposed to be complete nourishment but if it puts life at risk, what shall people turn to for maintaining the protein and other nutritious needs?
Meat, fish, vegetables and fruits are also a good source of nourishment. But those are also rendered chemical or pesticide-laden for fast growth or prolongation of shelf life. All are in race for making quick bucks. Whether the food chain is severely contaminated by the entry of unapproved chemicals or anti-biotic in the food chain is hardly any concern for most people. Unlettered farmers or unsuspecting owners of dairy, fish or poultry farms are unlikely to know the use of harmful feed or chemicals. Some unscrupulous quarters show them the dishonest way. Again, the need here is to plug the source. Either the route or channel of import or smuggling or the clandestine manufacturing units or both have to be dismantled once for all. There are hardly any alternatives to this.
Then it is time that punishment awarded to such illegal producers were made stringent in order to have some deterrent effect on the malpractice.