We welcome the High Court’s directive to immediately remove from the market 52 food items that have been found to be substandard by Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI). The substandard food items include daily essentials such as salt, turmeric and chilli powder, among other things. In some items, heavy metals such as lead were found higher than the permissible limits. So the HC’s concerns and directives regarding food adulteration are very timely. Having said so, we think it needs to be made clear as to what the BSTI meant by terming some of the products substandard but not “harmful” to human beings. It needs to clarify what constitutes a substandard food and what are the parameters. When a daily essential such as salt, produced by the two big companies that hold approximately 20 percent of the market share, is found to be substandard, it should ring the alarm bell. Such products should not have been in the market in the first place.
As the HC has urged the government “to declare a war on food adulteration the way it was done in case of narcotics,” we cannot but recall the way the anti-narcotic drive was carried out, where only the small-time drug peddlers were targeted, while the kingpins escaped the net. We think there should be strict institutional monitoring of the drives to make sure that these are carried out in an efficient and transparent manner and only those in breach of the rules and regulations are held to account.