The government is going to set up a single agency styled Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) to prevent widespread food adulteration and to ensure food safety in the country.
The decision was taken at an inter-ministerial meeting at the cabinet division yesterday with Food Minister Abdur Razzaque in the chair.
Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and secretaries of the other ministries concerned were present.
The food minister later told journalists that the proposed agency will be formed by amending the Pure Food Ordinance, 1959. The meeting discussed the draft amendment to the ordinance and those present recommended a provision of maximum 10-year jail term for the food adulterators.
According to the draft structure of the BFSA, it will have a board comprised of a chairman and five members. They will be appointed for a five-year term.
There will be two committees -- Scientific Committee and Inter-sector Collaboration and Coordination Committee -- under the board.
A chief executive officer will run the BFSA and it will have five divisions -- Surveillance & Enforcement Division, Food Safety Laboratory Division, Quality Assurance (CODEX) Division, Risk Assessment & Communication Division, and Resources and Support Division.
Razzaque said most food items are now being adulterated and this is very harmful to health. At present, various ministries like health, food, commerce, local government and rural development; and city corporations, Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute have been operating to ensure quality of food and prevent adulteration as per their own regulations, he mentioned.
The minister noted that lack of cooperation among these agencies is obstructing effective steps to ensure quality of food and prevent adulteration. And the level of food adulteration has created a panic in the society.
He said the Pure Food Ordinance was amended in 2005, and the local government ministry was given the specific responsibility of checking food adulteration. But it has said recently it is unable to do the job properly due to shortage of manpower and the burden of other responsibilities.
Razzaque said all staffs working under different ministries to ensure food quality and prevent adulteration will be transferred to the BFSA.
According to its draft structure, it will operate from the capital and down to upazila. There will be teams for surveillance, inspection, and prosecution. Executive magistrates will work under it and they will exercise executive authority.
The draft amendment to the ordinance will be finalised in the next inter-ministerial meeting for approval by the cabinet and then it will be made a law.
Unabated sale of adulterated foodstuffs is posing high health risks across the country.
Excessive use of chemicals like formalin, calcium carbide, pesticides and artificial growth regulators on a wide range of food items including fruits, vegetables and fish has led to mounting concern among the consumers. They have long been demanding an end to this situation.