Govt yet to act tough on trade
The authorities have yet to take legal action against dishonest traders who illegally marketed Chinese powdered milk, proving either way the laxity of the government in protecting public interests.
Three infant formula brands -- Yashili-1, Yashili-2 and Sweet Baby-2 -- were marketed without registration with the Institute of Public Health and Nutrition (IPHN) until melamine scare began haunting consumers early September.
The Daily Star investigation found a fullcream powdered milk brand was also marketed by Lalmai Food Products Ltd without registration of the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI).
Marketing any infant and baby food requires registration with IPHN, which banned the three brands in mid-September.
However, it has not taken any legal action against the importers.
Mow Enterprise is the importer of Sweet Baby-2 and Allway Trading Ltd Yashili-1 and Yashili-2.
Tests conducted by the chemistry department of Dhaka University, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and an ISO-recognised laboratory in Bangkok found high level of melamine in all the three brands.
The High Court also banned these brands in Bangladesh.
Asked, IPHN Director Fatima Parveen Chowdhury told The Daily Star they were waiting for the HC order on the test of melamine in powdered milk to take legal action.
She added now that the court delivered its order, the health ministry has initiated action against the companies.
According to the Breast Feeding Ordinance-1984, violators of the law will be fined Tk 5,000 and serve three years in prison or both.
Meanwhile, another Chinese fullcream milk brand 'COAST' was imported and marketed by Lalmai Food Products Ltd without BSTI approval.
The Daily Star on October 25 reported the company neither secured safety clearance from BSTI nor mentioned the product's country of origin on the packet, flouting the Bangladesh Standards of Weights and Measures Ordinance, 2007.
But the company printed BSTI logo on the packet giving the product an appearance that it has the clearance of the standards agency and started early September marketing 16 tonnes of powdered milk imported from China.
The BSTI, however, did not take any legal action until now against the company for violating the law. As per the Bangladesh Standards of Weights and Measures Ordinance 2007, violators can be fined Tk 15,000 to Tk 1 lakh and sentenced to three years' imprisonment.
The BSTI also investigated the matter and found accuracy of The Daily Star report.
Asked about action against Lalmai, BSTI Director General Azmal Hossain said the company's godown in Comilla has already been sealed and they would soon serve it a show-cause notice.
Such slow pace of the authorities is nothing but sheer negligence towards protection of public interests, commented Consumers' Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Programme Officer Emdad Hossain.
The IPHN, which is the authorised body to look after everything about infant and baby formula, could easily take legal actions against the violators under the Breast Feeding Ordinance-1984. Similarly, BSTI also should have acted immediately, he said.
"We hope the authorities will rise to protect consumers and their rights," Malek observed.