To ensure right to safe food | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 17, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:05 AM, July 17, 2018

Law letter

To ensure right to safe food

Recently in a research, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B) has found that 75% of pasteurised milk is unsafe. ICDDR, B research team found harmful Coliform Bacteria, Fecal Coliform Bacteria, and Escherichia Coli Bacteria in the samples of pasteurised milk collected from different companies. There are other similar types of surveys which found harmful additives in our foods. In various times Bangladesh Institute of Standard Testing Institute (BSTI) and Directorate of National Consumers' Rights Protection (DNCRP) officials found adulterated food in the markets. It is overwhelmingly found in several surveys and examinations that the most of the foods irrespective of whether it is manufactured and processed foods or fruits, fish, meats, and vegetables are unsafe.  Ironically our 'Food Safety Regulatory Authority' that is comprised of mainly (BSTI) and (DNCRP) can hardly ensure safe foods; particularly China melamine scandal in 2008 is pertinent. In 2008, the Government of China found melamine in milk and infant formula after sixteen babies in Gansu Province were diagnosed with kidney stones, who were fed infant formula produced by Sanlu Group, an infamous food consortium responsible for melamine scandal. It is noteworthy that Bangladeshi milk and infant formula importers were used to import milk and infant formula from the Sanlu Group. And it is a matter of great concern that we, the general consumers and our food safety regulatory authority were totally unaware of the fact that our kids and babies had adulterated milk and infant formula before it was revealed and discovered in China. So it is evident that our food safety mechanism can't detect unsafe and adulterated food.

Kazi Faruque, former president of the nonprofit Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said that every day we are consuming dangerous foods, which are triggering deadly diseases. Unscrupulous business people's inclination towards making profit at any cost puts consumers at risk.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food. This means that right to food is a basic human right. Article 15 of the Constitution of People's Republic of Bangladesh, in a self-same manner, states that it shall be a fundamental responsibility of the State to ensure the provision of the basic necessities of life, including food. Also, Article 18 states that State shall take adequate measures to ensure public health. To this end, the Government of Bangladesh has enacted more than 39 laws that are directly or indirectly associated to ensure safe food for all. Despite the fact, the implementing authorities of these Acts can't ensure safe food for general consumers.

BSTI and DNCRP argue that they have the constraint of resources and it is impractical and almost impossible for them to prevent corrupt practices in the food sector. Apparently, it is true but there is an alternative method by which if they wish so they can control and prevent unsafe and unhealthy practices in the food sector. That is making corrupted business people responsible to pay damages and fine in an exemplary way. We should keep in mind that only inclination towards earning money tempts dishonest people to engage in unethical and immoral business practice. So if the 'Food Safety Authority' can make the scrupulous business peoples to pay substantive monetary damages for their misdeeds in food businesses, then others will eventually become apathetic and reluctant to engage in the same.


Abdullah Al Noman and Shahnewaj

Programme Director at Youth for Human Rights International Bangladesh & researcher at Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA).

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