Each district has a food court to act on complaints of food adulteration. But the government has shown little sincerity in making them functional since it set them up 16 months back on High Court orders.
Zahirul Kabir, assistant secretary of the law ministry, who deals with the courts, told The Daily Star last month that his office had not received any information about the filing of a case with any food court, let alone punishing any trader for using toxic chemicals in food items.
This is because the government has not created public awareness about the food courts and their functions, said Manzill Musrhid, president of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB), who had moved a petition seeking HC directives on the government to set up the food courts.
Responding to his plea, the HC in June 2009 ordered the government to set up a food court and appoint an adequate number of food analysts in each district and metropolitan city within two years.
The law ministry in March last year formed a Pure Food Court in every district and metropolitan city and issued a gazette notification in November, asking the judicial magistrates concerned to conduct the court proceedings.
The courts can fine anyone up to Tk 3 lakh for food adulteration and sentence him to a maximum of three-year rigorous imprisonment as per the relevant law.
However, nothing has been done to appoint food analysts or inform consumers that food courts are there to deal with their complaints of food adulteration.
Food Minister Qamrul Islam himself has recently said he did not know that food courts had been set up.
A law ministry high official requesting anonymity told The Daily Star on July 18 that there was no need to appoint food analysts as local health officials could test any food item for harmful chemicals and move a case with the food courts.
About raising public awareness, he said the government would not be able to go from door to door to do so.
Against this backdrop, HRPB President Murshid said he was thinking of filing another petition asking the government to recruit food analysts as per the HC directive.
Food analysts are supposed to play an important role in moving cases with the courts, he added.
Accepting a case from any aggrieved person, a food court will ask food analysts to conduct a test on the food item allegedly treated with harmful chemicals and then submit a report.
On receiving the report, the court will proceed with the case and deliver a verdict, Murshid said.
The HRPB president also said the government was not serious about making the food courts vibrant, which was necessary in the greater national interest. The government can make people aware about the issue through local information offices, he added.