The High Court yesterday came down heavily on Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) for not complying with its earlier order to get 52 sub-standard food items off the shelves.
“Bangladesh Food Safety Authority’s activities over removing 52 substandard food items from markets are merely eyewash,” said the HC bench of Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil.
During the hearing on a writ petition, the court rebuked the BFSA chairman, summoned him, and issued a contempt of court rule against him for not complying with its order.
It directed the chairman to appear before it on June 16 to explain as to why his office had not complied with its May 12 order. The BFSA chairman cannot go unpunished, the bench said issuing a rule asking him to explain in two weeks as to why contempt of court proceedings should not be brought against him.
The HC bench told BFSA’s lawyer Mohammad Faridul Islam that it had ordered the BFSA and the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) to immediately remove the 52 food products from markets but the BFSA did not remove even a single packet of spices from any shop.
Going through a compliance report from the BFSA, the court said the BFSA has an office with 17 employees and officials, including its chairman, on Eskaton Road, but they did not take any step to comply with the order.
“What is the necessity of running the office of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority? Do they [BFSA chairman and other officials] fear big companies? If it is so, ask them to quit their jobs, go home, and start cooking or to take clerical jobs in banks for counting money,” the HC told the BFSA lawyer.
While placing the BFSA compliance report, Faridul said BSFA held a views-exchange meeting on May 19 with Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI), filed 52 cases and sent notices to deputy commissioners, civil surgeons, and upazila nirbahi officers asking them to take necessary steps to remove the food items.
The BFSA has also published advertisements in 13 newspapers, he said, adding that his client was yet to get reports on compliance.
The court told the lawyer, “Are you [BFSA] showing High Court to the High Court [trying to hoodwink the court]? You are trying to avoid the responsibility citing excuses. We understand these. Don’t challenge our temper and don’t consider our politeness as weakness. You didn’t implement our order, rather staged shows with the mobile court and talked to the media.”
The court, however, expressed satisfaction with the compliance report submitted by DNCRP which said it had conducted drives at markets almost all over the country and confiscated substandard and adulterated food items.
It said the DNCRP implemented some of the court directives and hoped that it would continue its drives against food adulteration throughout the year.
The HC bench thanked the media for publishing its directives accurately.
The court yesterday observed that there would be no compromise on food safety and that no company would be allowed to supply, market, and sell food items without maintaining the BSTI set standards.
There is no distinction between adulterated and substandard food as both are not consumable by humans, it said.
The court said it would take legal action against the authorities responsible for preventing and checking adulteration of food items if they do not do their jobs properly.
The BSTI recently tested 406 food items and published the reports on 313, of which 52 were found to be substandard.
It did not publish the reports on 93, writ petitioner Shihab Uddin told the HC in a supplementary petition and requested the court to direct the BSTI to make those public.
The court directed the BSTI to submit the test reports on June 16.
Yesterday, ACI, Pran, and Kashem Food submitted separate petitions to the HC requesting it to change its May 12 order so that they could produce and sell products that complied with BSTI standards.
The court said there was no bar for the companies to produce, market, and sell items that meet the standards.
It said if the producers of the 52 food items appealed to the BSTI, the authority should conduct further tests and submit the reports to the court by June 13.
The HC on May 12 directed the BFSA and DNCPR to immediately remove from the market the 52 food items that were found substandard by BSTI and to submit the compliance reports to the court yesterday.
Rokanuddin Mahmud, MK Rahman, and Tanjib-Ul Alam appeared for ACI, Pran, and Kashem Food respectively, while Deputy Attorney General Mokhlesur Rahman represented the state.