The government has decided to further intensify mobile court drives to check food adulteration ahead of the month of Ramadan and standardise all tests carried out during such drives.
Food Secretary AM Badruddoza and Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) Chairman Mustak Hassan Md Iftekhar made the comment after a meeting with relevant stakeholders at the BFSA office in the capital yesterday.
The decision came after owners kept over 100 superstores across the country closed for a day on May 15 for what the Bangladesh Supermarket Owners Association said was slapping fines on the businessmen on the basis of unscientific food tests.
The strike was observed within four days of the first and the only mobile court drive by the BFSA, which was formed in February last year.
The food secretary defended launching such drives during yesterday's meeting.
"When people sell date-expired food and rotten fish, you don't need any scientific tests to prove that. Magistrates [who led mobile courts] do their jobs cautiously.”
The chairman, however, acknowledged the reality when some of the meeting participants raised the issue of “dissimilarities” in test standards during such drives by city corporations, Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa).
He asserted that the BFSA would standardise various food safety tests within a month.
The food secretary also said the BFSA was committed to coordinating all efforts and work of various agencies in ensuring production and marketing of safe food, but that does not limit its authority to launch anti-adulteration drives. "It [BFSA] can conduct mobile court drives of its own or through other agencies."
The meeting decided that the food ministry would send letters in a month to all relevant ministries, public offices, asking to set up respective “Safe Food Focal Desk” for the sake of “better coordination”.
Officials from city corporations, BSTI, Wasa, Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) and National Food Health Laboratory and representatives of consumers' and business forums took part in the meeting.
Many of them expressed deep dissatisfaction at the way food items were being marketed using harmful preservatives.
A BSTI official gave statistics of sending 33 food safety violators to jail and filing of over a thousand cases in the last nine months. A food health laboratory chief spoke about finding harmful pesticides residue in 27 food items they tested in their labs this year.
The food secretary also said it seemed that food adulteration became all pervasive. That's why, he said, drives against unsafe food must go on.
Secretary General of Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association M Rezaul Karim Sarker Robin informed the meeting that his association had already sent letters to all of its district units, asking them to refrain from selling Iftar items in the open during the Ramadan.