Except for three, all 50 food items tested in a government laboratory have been found adulterated.
Only two spices -- fenugreek (methi) and black pepper -- and sesame oil (seed oil with medicinal value) were found pure.
Over the last two years, the Institute of Public Health tested 10,289 samples of 50 food items, including edible oil, spices, sweetmeats, milk products, lentils, pulses, juices, pickles, biscuits, jellies, dried fish, flours and tea leaves at its laboratory.
Of those, all samples of chocolate, cake, Chhana and sweetmeats, juices, dried fish, vegetable oil and fruit syrups, and around 80 to 90 percent samples of ghee, yogurts, honey, milk powder, Soybean oil and sherbet were found adulterated.
“It does not mean all sweetmeats, yogurts, vegetable oil, fruit juices and dried fish available in the market are adulterated. We test only the items seized during drives,” Shafiqul Islam, deputy director at the IPH laboratory, told the Daily Star.
The IPH lab in the capital's Mohakhali tests only those food items that are either seized or sent by sanitary inspectors from across the country, he said.
Technicians at the lab said it was not possible for them to test all the samples sent to them every year.
According to the IPH reports, the laboratory tested 5,322 samples of 50 food items in 2012 and 4,967 samples of 42 food items last year, and found 46 percent of those adulterated.
More than 50 percent samples of milk, mustard oil, Soybean oil, ghee, powder of red chilli, coriander powder, biscuit, turmeric powder, milk powder, juices and drinks, yogurt, honey, salt, pickle, jelly, grams and vermicelli were found adulterated.
However, less than 30 percent samples of ankor pulses, lentil, palm and coconut oil, rice, flour, black cumin seed and treacle were adulterated.
The findings come amid growing concern among consumers over widespread adulteration of food items.
Expressing her helplessness, Raihana Ferdous, a consumer and mother of two, said, “All food items, including fruits, fish, meat, milk and milk products are either adulterated or contain toxic chemicals. My younger son is malnourished and I don't understand what to feed him,” she said.
Raihana, also an executive of Al-Arafah Bank, said she didn't buy any fruits over the last few months.
Meanwhile, the High Court asked the government to issue a gazette notification within 15 days to enforce the safe food law for checking food adulteration.
The HC ordered the food secretary to submit a report to it by June 16 on compliance with the directive.
The court also asked the government to explain in four weeks why it should not be directed to form a separate body in line with the Safe Food Act, 2013 to ensure food safety.
The HC order came yesterday in response to a writ petition filed by a rights organisation, Legal Action Bangladesh Foundation.