Retail chain Agora will sell fruits, vegetables, fish, meat and processed foods, tested by a research organisation of the government, in a bid to provide safe and hygienic food items to consumers.
Rahimafrooz Superstores Ltd, the owning company of Agora, and Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), yesterday signed an agreement to this effect.
Rahimafrooz, on a regular basis or occasionally, will send food samples to the research organisation from every batch of its fresh vegetables, fruits, raw and processed products that come from the suppliers.
BCSIR will test these food items against national standards, according to the memorandum of understanding signed at the organisation's office in Dhaka.
"We hope customers will find the tested food items in our stores from December 1," said Niaz Rahim, managing director of Rahimafrooz Superstores.
The customers will not need to pay extra for these products, he added.
BCSIR Chairman Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail Mustafa and Rahim signed the deal, while State Minister for Science and Technology Yeafesh Osman was present.
The initiative of public-private partnership comes at a time when rampant food adulteration is raising concern about its deadly impact on health.
Unscrupulous traders spray fish, fruits and vegetables with formalin and other chemicals that are normally used to preserve tissues and also in the textile and leather industries. Mustafa said dishonest businesses use harmful chemicals instead of the food-grade ones in food items.
"Various dyes are being used to contain real colours of vegetables. Processed food items are being adulterated," he said, adding that the use of toxic substances increases the risk of diseases such as cancer, kidney damage and cardiovascular disorders.
The chief of the government's research organisation said its newly established food safety laboratory will ensure testing of food items for human consumption.
Rahim said the agreement will enable the officials of the government organisation to randomly collect samples of the selected products from any of the 11 Agora outlets to check their standards and quality.
The deal will also allow Rahimafrooz to use the label “Tested by BCSIR” along with the logo on the products of the batch tested.
The deal has also created enthusiasm among other operators of superstores.
Zakir Hossain, general secretary of Bangladesh Supermarket Owners' Association, said they also want to join in the scheme of providing safe food items.
"We also consider signing such deals," said AC Ltd's Executive Director Syed Alamgir, who was present at the programme. ACI runs 44 retail outlets under the name Shwapno.