Urging the prime minister to declare a war on food adulteration, the High Court yesterday directed the government to immediately remove from the market the 52 food items that have been found substandard by Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution.
“If necessary, the state may declare an emergency for preventing food adultera-tion,” the HC observed, adding that food adulteration cannot be tolerated and there can be no compromise on this.
“We urge the government, the ruling party and the prime minister to declare a war on food adulteration the way it was done in case of narcotics.”
The substandard items include daily essentials such as salt, turmeric and chilli powder. Certain brands of vermicelli that see high demand during the Ramadan are also among the food products.
Besides, samples of certain brands of mustard oil, bottled drinking water, curry powder, ghee, flour, noodles, crisps and biscuits were also found substandard by the BSTI.
BSTI officials, however, said most of the products are substandard, but not adulterated. And except for a few, those are not harmful to humans.
The BSTI recently collected 406 samples of food items from the market from across the country and tested those at its laboratory. As of May 2, it got results of 313 samples, 52 of which were found substandard.
The 52 samples were of 46 firms that include several leading food processors, including ACI Ltd, Molla Salt (Triple Refined) Industry Ltd, Pran-RFL Group, Meghna Group of Industries, City Group, Bangladesh Edible Oil Ltd, Danish Food Limited and Well Food and Beverage Company.
SM Ishaque Ali, BSTI director of certification marks, said they found that the food items were below its standard parameters.
“We have not found adulteration in these food items. Most of the products are substandard, not harmful to humans. But some items are harmful as heavy metals like lead were found in those at levels higher than the permissible limits,” he said.
Market operators say if the products are removed from the market immediately, there may be a supply crunch, which could lead to price spiral of some items, especially salt.
The country requires 2,547 tonnes of edible salt every day. And the ACI and Molla Salt hold approximately 20 percent of the market share for it, said Shameem Ahmed, head of sales of Molla Salt.
“There will be no effect at the consumer level if a certain batch of salt is removed from the market. Prices are unlikely to increase. But if all our edible salt is withdrawn, there will be an impact on the market,” he said.
Yesterday, the HC bench of Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif and Justice Razik-Al Jalil came up with the order and observation after hearing a writ petition filed by Con-scious Consumers Society, a rights organisation.
The petition sought the court’s directive on the authorities concerned to take steps to seize or remove the 52 food products from the market.
The court asked the authorities to take measures to stop production, sale or marketing of these substandard products until or unless those items are found to be of mandatory standards in further tests.
It also ordered the authorities to take legal action against those responsible for production, sale, marketing and supply of the products.
Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) and the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection have been asked to take necessary measures to this effect and submit a report to it in 10 days after complying with the directives.
The court also called upon the government to ensure that people are supplied with pure drinking water.
It fixed May 23 for passing further order on the issue, writ petitioner’s lawyer Barrister Shihab Uddin Khan told this correspondent.
Talking to The Daily Star, Consumers Association of Bangladesh President Ghulam Rahman said the HC order will send a message to the manufacturers that no one will be spared for deceiving consumers.
“This will have a long-term positive impact.
“If products of certain batches are removed from the market, the impact will not be high provided that the authorities supervise the market,” he pointed out.
“These are packaged foods and the maximum retail prices [MRPs] are written on the packets of these items. The authorities will have to scale up monitoring and surveillance so that no one charges higher than that.”
At the same time, consumers need to be conscious. If one sells these products at prices higher than the MRPs, they should file complaints with the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, he said.
Syed Alamgir, managing director of consumer brand of the ACI, said the company would take steps after getting a copy of the court order.
“Let us see the court order first. We will take steps accordingly,” he said.
Kamruzzaman Kamal, director (marketing) of PRAN-RFL Group, said Pran checked its products -- turmeric and fish curry powder and vermicelli -- at its laboratory as well as other labs, and found those to be of the BSTI standards.
He said they wrote to the BSTI, requesting it to re-test the products and give them the results to end all confusion.
“I hope we will get the re-test reports of the BSTI soon, and all issues will be resolved.”
On the HC directive, Kamal said, “We are a very much compliant and law-abiding company. We will act as per the court directives after getting the papers.”
While passing the order, the HC bench observed that the BSTI and other regulatory authorities should carry out drives against food adulteration throughout the year, not only in the month of Ramadan.
“We are of the view that the officials of the authorities concerned should not consider themselves as officials only. They should act with patriotism and love for the people of the country. Collaboration and cooperation between the authorities concerned are needed. Otherwise, the drives against food adulteration will not be successful,” it noted.
The bench said the HC is not a regulatory authority, and taking action against food adulteration is not a “day-to-day job” of the court. But the HC cannot refrain from passing necessary orders for preventing food adulteration.
Justice Hassan noted that the HC has no authority to prioritise the government’s activities. “However, we urge the government to take this issue [prevention of food adulteration] as its first priority.”
Earlier at the hearing on the writ petition, BSTI Deputy Director Md Reazul Haque and BFSA Director Sahadeb Chandra Saha appeared before the HC as per its May 9 order to explain their roles regarding the 52 substandard food items.
Reazul told the court that BSTI issued notices to the companies concerned to stop production and sale of substandard food products.
The BSTI doesn’t have the authority to run mobile courts against food adulteration. It closed 32 factories for producing substandard water and filed 71 cases in this regard in the last four months, he said.
BFSA’s counsel Mohammad Faridul Islam told the HC that Director Sahadeb might not be able to reply to the court’s queries as he joined the BFSA only a week back.
Then Justice Hassan said the BFSA director general made a joke of the court by sending an official who joined the BFSA a week ago.
Faridul said the BFSA could not take any action against the producers of sub-standard food products, as the BSTI did not provide it with the test report.
The court then said the BSTI at a press conference made public the test report, and the list of the companies and their substandard food products. And it was published in the media.
The BFSA’s wait for the test report is like asking whether police would wait for the post mortem report to arrest the accused in a murder case, it said.
FOOD PRODUCTS ORDERED TO BE TAKEN OFF SHELVES
1. ACI Aydinjukta Laban of ACI Salt Limited (Rupganj, Narayanganj)
2. Mollah Solt Aydinjukta Laban of Mollah Salt Industries (Char Syedpur, Narayanganj);
3. Madhumoti Aydinjukta Laban of Madhumoti Salt Industries (Phultala, Khulna);
4. Dada Supar Aydinjukta Laban of M/S New Jhalakathi Salt Mills (Araddarpara, Sadar, Jhalakathi);
5. Tin Teer Aydinjukta Laban of M/S Quality Salt Industries (Fariapatti, Sadar, Jhalakathi);
6. Madina, Star Ship Aydinjukta Laban of M/S Lucky Salt Industries (4, Manoharpatti, Sadar, Jhalakathi);
7. Taj Aydinjukta Laban of M/S Taj Salt Industries (Station Road, Sadar, Jhalakathi)
8. Nur Special Aydinjukta Laban of M/S Nur Salt Industries (Faniapatti, Sadar, Jhalakathi)
1. Danish Holuder Gura of Danish Food Limited (Kanchpur, Narayanganj);
2. Pran Holuder Gura of Pran Agro Limited (Natore);
3. Fresh Holuder Gura of Tanvir Food Limited (Megnaghat, Sonargaon, Narayanganj);
4. ACI Pure Dhaniar Gura of ACI Food Limited (Sirajganj);
5. Pran Curry Powder of Pran Agro Limited (Natore);
6. Pure Hathazari Maricher Gura of SS Consumer Products (Chattogram);
7. Danish Curry Powder of Danish Food Limited (Kanchpur, Narayanganj);
8. Holuder Gura of M/S Manzil Food and Products (BSCIC Shilpanagari, Gotatikar, Sylhet);
9. Sun Holuder Gura of Sun Food (Kushtia);
10. Dolphin Maricher Gura and Dolphin Holuder Gura of M/S Abbas Ali Mudi Dokan (Saheb Bazar, Rajshahi)
11. Surya Maricher Gura of M/S Rakib Store (Saheb Bazar, Rajshahi)
1. Teer Sarishar (Mustard) Tel (Oil) of City Oil Mill (Konapara, Gazipur);
2. GB Sarishar Tel of Green Blessings Vegetables Oil Industries Limited (Rupganj, Narayanganj);
3. Pusti Mustard Oil of Shabnam Vegetables Oil Industries Limited (Rupganj, Narayanganj);
4. Rupchanda Mustard Oil of Bangladesh Edible Oil Limited (Rupganj, Narayanganj);
1. Pran Lachchha Seemai (vermicelli) of Pran Agro Limited (Sapura, Rajshahi);
2. Mistimela Lachchha Seemai of Mistimela Food Products (Firingibazar, Chattogram);
3. Madhuban Lachchha Seemai of Madhuban Bread and Biscuits Industries Private Limited (Panchlaish, Chattogram);
4. Mithai Lachchha Seemai of Mithai Sweets and Bakery (Jalalbad, Chattogram);
5. Oil Food Lachchha Seemai of Oil Food and Beverage Company (Aturardepo, Sholoshohor, Chattogram);
6. Kiran Lachchha Seemai of M/S Kiran Products (Naogaon); Lachchha Seemai of M/S Madhuban and Products (BSCIC Shilpanagari, Gotatikar, Sylhet);
7. Jedda Lachchha Seemai of M/S Jedda Food Industries (Katpatti, Sadar, Jhalakathi);
8. Amrita Lachchha Seemai of M/S Amrita Food Products (Amritanagar, Pangsha, Babuganj, Barishal)
1. Ara Drinking Water of Arra Food and Beverage Limited (Uttara, Dhaka);
2. Al Safi Drinking Water of Al Safi Drinking Water (Chiriakhana Road, Mirpur, Dhaka);
3. Mizan Drinking Water of Shahari and Brothers (15/3-1, Purba Rampura, Dhaka);
4. Morn Dew Drinking Water of Morn Dew Pure Drinking Water (Section 11, Mirpur, Dhaka);
5. Duncan Natural Mineral Water of Duncan Products Limited (20, Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, Dhaka);
6. RR View Drinking Water of RR View Purified Drinking Water (151/1, Purba Sheorapara, Kafrul, Dhaka);
7. Dighee Drinking Water of Dighee Drinking Water (Topkhana Road, Dhaka);
1. Banolata Ghee of Banolata Sweets and Bakery (Mirpur, Dhaka);
2. Baghabari Special Ghee of Baghabari Special Ghee Company (380/B, Dakkhin Goran, Dhaka);
1. King Maida of KR Food Industries Limited (Sitakunda, Chattogram);
2. Rupsha Fermented Milk (Dai) of Rupsha Food Products (Eidgah, Chattogram);
3. Makka Chanachur of Tayeba Food Products (Sadar, B-Baria);
4. Mehedi Biscuit of Imtiaz Bread and Food Products (399, Asodganj Chattogram);
5. Suji of M/S Nishita Foods (BSCIC Shilpanagari, Khadimnagar, Sylhet);
6. Greenlane Madhu of Greenlane Milk Product (Daulatpur, Khulna),
7. Sun Chips of Kashem Food Products Limited (Konapara, Gazipur);
8. Dudli Noodles of New Zealand Dairy Products BD Limited (Rupganj, Narayanganj);
9. Testy, Tani, Taskia Soft Drink Powder of Shanta Products (Keraniganj, Dhaka);
10. Priya Soft Drink Powder of Jahangir Food Products (Kamrangirchar, Dhaka);