Food adulteration rampant in Ctg
Food adulteration has spread so much in Chittagong city in recent times that consumers are finding it very difficult to purchase pure food.
From fish markets to renowned confectioneries and even supermarkets, consumers are being deceived into buying adulterated foods by a section of dishonest businessmen.
Mobile courts comprising officials from Chittagong City Corporation (CCC), District Administration of Chittagong, National Consumer Rights Protection Department and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) often carry out drives against such malpractices.
But these drives are proving ineffective in warding off the producers and traders involved in such illegal activities.
In recent drives in the last couple of months in the city's markets and shops, the mobile courts found fish and fruits mixed with formalin to make them last longer and vegetables dyed in poisonous chemicals to make them look fresher and to get higher prices for them.
Apart from food adulteration, other consumer items like edible oils were found being packed and sold in unhygienic environments. Other food items had no price or weight tags and were being sold past their expiry dates.
Some businesses were also found to be illegally using the BSTI approval seal in their products though the BSTI authorities had not issued them any such clearance.
Though food adulteration continues throughout the year, the practice becomes rampant during Ramadan as demand for some foods like vermicelli, noodles, ghee, powdered spices and edible oil goes up.
Quick to keep up with the demand, some businesses thrive by producing these commodities giving little thought to the fact that they are using low-quality raw materials and producing the items in unhygienic environments.
The recent drives were carried out in the city's Chaktai, Khatunganj, Rajakhali, Bakalia, Bayezid, Bahadarhat, Madarbari and Mughaltuli areas. The courts also penalised the unscrupulous businesses.
One mobile court led by CCC Magistrate Joynal Abdin fined two bakeries in Poschim Madarbari area -- Master Bakery and Pragati Bakery -- Tk 1 lakh and 1.5 lakh respectively.
They were found guilty of manufacturing food items in unhygienic environments and selling them without price tags and expiry dates.
In another drive in early July, Magistrate Joynal Abdin fined Abdul Monnan Semai Factory in Rajakhali area, producing vermicelli, Tk 50,000 for producing their products in dirty environments.
The most alarming issue these drives revealed was that even some of the renowned chain supermarkets were involved in selling adulterated and date expired food.
In separate drives, CCC Magistrate Joynal Abdin fined Shwapno Tk 50,000 for selling harmful chemical laced vegetables and fish and Wellmart and Agora another Tk 50,000 each for selling fruits mixed with formalin.
The biggest fine, Tk 1,05,000, was handed down to Meena Bazar for selling rotten fruits and food items without any expiry dates.
But it was not the first time that these supermarkets had been fined.
Last March, Chittagong District Administration Executive Magistrate Jannatul Ferdous fined Wellmart Tk 15,000 and Meena Bazar and Shwapno Tk 50,000 each for selling formalin-mixed fruits and foods.
“Supermarkets claim that they maintain the quality of their products and so charge more for them. But it is a matter of fear that they are also involved in food adulteration and other malpractices,” said one city resident, Mahbubul Hoque.
“I think they should be fined more than the others,” he added.
Baharul Islam, manager of Meena Bazar, declined to comment on the matter. He, however, said they would be cautious from now on. Representatives of Agora also echoed the same.
Sources in BSTI, Chittagong office said though BSTI needed to be stricter against such deceitful businesses, their actions were limited due to a lack of chemical testing facilities and manpower.
CCC Executive Magistrate Joynal Abdin said, “The practice of food adulteration may be lessened through repeated drives but the administration alone will not be able to stop it completely.”
“Business ethics must be kept in mind by the owners and consumers should be more conscious about what they are buying,” he said.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh, Chittagong President SM Nazir Hossain said, “The fines are very little in amount. The business owners should instead be jailed and handed down exemplary punishment. Consumers could also boycott their products.”