The ongoing anti-adulteration drive is undoubtedly the toughest among similar actions conducted in the recent past.
The relevant government organisations appear to be more active than before during this holy month of Ramadan. Teams belonging to food safety entities are regularly visiting food manufacturing and selling outlets in Dhaka city, imposing heavy fines and even nabbing the people involved in production and sale of adulterated and date-expired food items.
People are hardly surprised when they watch on TV the mobile teams of Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute or Directorate of National Consumers' Rights Protection or Bangladesh Food Safety Authority are taking actions against the little known entities in Kamrangirchar or similar other places engaged in the act of producing adulterated foods in very unhygienic conditions.
But they cannot accept involvement of large and high-profile manufacturers and super shops in the heinous act of producing adulterated and low quality foods or selling the same.
Yet such things are happening. Large consumer goods manufacturing units --- some of them even export consumer items --- have been marketing substandard or adulterated food items in the market. Some of the super shops that have been drawing the middle class consumers in large numbers have been fined heavily for selling adulterated or rotten or date-expired food items.
However, what is being revealed by the mobile courts, headed by executive magistrates, is only tip of the iceberg as far as state of adulteration of food items in Bangladesh is concerned.
The problem is extensive. Even the rural people, whom we consider simple and innocent, have also picked up the bad habit of adulterating food items. However, most of them are engaged in this criminal act without knowing the dangers of adulteration.
What happens at the grassroots level is large-scale chemical contamination of food items. Farmers apply harmful pesticides on their crops and vegetables. They hardly follow the scientific application of pesticides. Some growers also apply harmful chemicals for ripening of fruits such as bananas, mangoes and pineapples.
Preservatives are used on food items globally. But that is done in accordance with certain guidelines and limit. But, in Bangladesh, hardly any guideline is followed in the use of preservatives and other chemicals on food items. Textile dyes are used indiscriminately to colour food items here.
There is no denying that raids being conducted by the mobile teams do have certain effect on food adulteration. But the overall impact is bound to be very limited because of their limited coverage. Moreover, relevant authorities choose the holy month of Ramadan as the prime time of their actions. They seem to be less serious in carrying out similar raids during other months of the year.
At this point of time, everyone --- higher court, media and relevant government agencies --- appears to be serious about the problem of food adulteration. Such seriousness, if past instances are any indicator, is transient in nature. It will gradually die down.
But, both awareness and actions are necessary to deal with the problem of adulteration. What is more important is creating awareness among people of every stratum of society through strong, sustained and widespread campaign against the problem of adulteration. Moreover, punishment for indulging in adulteration needs to be severe, in terms of the tenure of rigorous imprisonment.
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