Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday recommended lifetime imprisonment for those who sell and use formalin in foodstuff.
“Those people are endangering people's health and deserve the highest form of punishment,” Huq said at a discussion on the Formalin Control Act 2013, organised by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry at its headquarters.
The health hazards for such food adulteration are: cancer, neurological and reproductive problems, kidney and liver failure and abnormality among children, according to analysts.
At present, the country has no specific law to award punishment to formalin abusers.
The commerce ministry has already prepared the draft, which is now sitting with the law ministry.
The draft, however, recommends a maximum of 10 years in jail and a minimum of three as punishment if one violates the conditions on sales of formalin.
Huq also recommended putting the cases for food adulteration under the Special Powers Act to speed up the trials, and empowering the mobile court to slap punishment of two years' imprisonment on the spot.
He is hopeful that the parliament would pass the landmark act by June.
In November last year, the government passed a stringent food safety law, replacing the Pure Food Ordinance of 1958.
Despite the new law, which stipulates a maximum punishment of 14 years' jail sentence, food adulteration continues unabated.
Banned pesticides have been found in fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products and dry fish, according to a FAO-sponsored test at a government laboratory.
The presence of toxic substances in food samples was three to 20 times the limits set by the European Union, show test results of the National Food Safety Laboratory (NFSL).
The test shows 40 percent of the 82 samples contained pesticides that had been banned more than one and a half decades ago for high toxicity.
Carrot, bean, tomato, lettuce, capsicum, banana, apple, pineapple and mango were contaminated with highly toxic pesticides. And the presence of banned pesticide Aldrin was found in milk, according to the NFSL tests.
“Unadulterated food is the constitutional right of the people. Death penalty should be awarded to the food adulterators as they are creating serious health hazards for the society,” FBCCI President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed, said, while calling for a social protest against food adulterators.
Helal Uddin, vice-president of FBCCI, called for immediate passage of the act to check the trade and use of the toxic substance, as the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution is not playing its due role.
Traders imported 40 tonnes formalin in fiscal 2012-14 and 750 tonnes in fiscal 2011-12. FBCCI has established 19 formalin free markets in the country, he added.