Against the backdrop of rampant food adulteration in the country, a community group organised a human chain in front of the capital's Jaitya Press Club yesterday demanding strict enforcement of food safety laws.
With colourful banners and festoons reading "No more adulterated food", "Stop poisoning us", "Fruits should heal, not kill", "We want safe food now", a few hundred people stood there from 3:00pm to 4:00pm.
“I am a mother. Most of the organisers have their children. We have taken this initiative for the sake of our future generation,” said Azra Selim, one of the organisers of the programme which they called a "consumers' initiative".
The organisers said it was only the beginning of their programme agenda in order to raise awareness at national level.
A written statement, circulated during the programme, states that this is a problem which affects everyone, everywhere in Bangladesh. "Our long-term goal is to stop the sale of adulterated fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry and spices in our markets at national level. Our short-term goal is to raise awareness among consumers as well as suppliers," it says.
The written statement also appeals to the government to strictly enforce relevant laws, increase awareness and educate farmers, traders to stop the supply of contaminated food items.
Recently, the organisers have uploaded a petition to US-based online petition platform Change.org, which aims to pass on public messages to decision makers.
The online petition, addressed to the food ministry, says the residents of Bangladesh have been overwhelmed by the contaminated food products being consumed on a regular basis. "Banned pesticides, unsafe chemicals, and antibiotics have been found in many of our basic food products, like fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy, and spices. Consumption of such toxic food is putting us at risk of food poisoning, kidney diseases, cancer, and even death. Random tests and raids have repeatedly shown the unacceptable levels of toxic chemicals in the food."
It goes on, “If we do not oppose this now, there will be a devastating result. Our children are being affected by life-threatening diseases, and the working population of the country is experiencing sickness and untimely deaths, none of which is good for our country's future.”
Among the organisers, who did not use any name of the group, were Piyani Malik, Zara Mahbub, Kaiser Kabir, Nawshin Khair, Asif Saleh, and Lamiya Morshed.