A two-day food safety conference rounded off yesterday calling on the government to set local food standards in line with internationally recognised ones and strengthen the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA).
Held at a hotel in the capital, the conference underscored the need for following international standards in food additives, food labelling and marketing so that consumers get safe food on their plates.
The conference, which came up with a nine-point action agenda, recommended the government to provide BFSA with adequate human resources capable of ensuring that only safe and healthy foods are marketed.
Established in February 2015 in line with the Food Safety Act, 2013, the BFSA has long been limping with a skeleton staff.
AKM Nurul Afsar, national team leader of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Bangladesh, stressed the need for Bangladesh to complete the process of harmonising with the regulatory regime under Codex Alimentarius.
Codex Alimentarius is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice in global food trade.
Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), BFSA and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) jointly organised the conference.
Some 350 officials from government agencies, academia, researchers and representatives of packaged food companies and experts of international organisations participated in the event.
The conference took place at a time when concern on food safety among citizens is ubiquitous, thanks to numerous allegations of adulteration and unhygienic practices.
The conference suggested monitoring, upgrading domestic food testing laboratories as well as self-regulation by the processed food makers to ensure food safety and win consumer confidence.
At a session on food safety, FICCI official Shadab Ahmed Khan said self-regulation within the food industry would help develop the market and increase confidence of regulators and consumers.
Asif Iqbal, executive director (marketing) of Meghna Group of Industries, said Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) have to be self-imposed in each factory.
“We need strong intervention to protect consumer rights and we need self-regulation,” said Murshid, director general of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
Some 25 lakh people are engaged in the food business and of them 15 lakh are directly linked with the food trade.
BFSA said it had taken up an initiative to get 25 lakh food businesses registered. This would allow them to be properly monitored and supervised.
BFSA aims to make processed food producers comply with standards so that safe food can be ensured by 2021.
At the closing session, Food Minister Qamrul Islam said the government works to ensure constitutional right of every citizen to safe food.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) has taken steps to protect rights of consumers. The office under the Commerce ministry received 6,060 allegations and resolved 5662 of them, he said. It fined violators of consumer rights Tk 6.14 crore, he said.