Unified food safety authority on cards | The Daily Star
12:45 AM, July 02, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:45 AM, July 02, 2013

Unified food safety authority on cards

Cabinet okays draft law with provision for food courts, 14-yr jail for food adulteration

The cabinet yesterday approved in principle the draft of the Food Safety Act, 2013 with a provision of up to 14 years' imprisonment for food adulterators.
The draft law also sought to form a unified authority -- Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) -- to fight food adulteration and take care of other food-related concerns of consumers. It proposed forming as many food courts as deemed required to try the adulterators.
Once passed by parliament, the law will replace the ages-old Pure Food Ordinance, 1959 and the current multi-pronged, multi-ministry controlled mechanisms of food safety issues, Food Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque told The Daily Star.
The BFSA, noted the minister, would be moulded in the shape of the US Food and Drug Administration and this should give the people of Bangladesh some relief from the menace of rampant food adulteration.
The five-decade old law, which is still in effect, has provisions for a paltry fine of Tk5,000 or jail terms for two to three months for food adulterers, he added.
The ordinance covered only eight food commodities, while the new draft law proposed including over 200 food commodities, said an official of the Food Planning Monitoring Unit of the food ministry.
Razzaque, however, said entrusting an agency with fighting food adulteration would not necessarily mean that other government bodies should shrug off their responsibilities.
"Rather the proposed agency [BFSA] will draw from the expertise of all relevant ministries and agencies and use all the lab facilities, no matter under whom those operate. Besides, there would be the BSTI [Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution]," he mentioned.
The draft law got the government nod at the regular weekly cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
It proposed controlling the use of various toxic chemicals, formalin, DDT, etc., in food items and formation of BFSA to ensure quality of food from farm-to-fork, from production to packaging and distribution.
The law would replace the existing system of food quality control that involves as many as 15 ministries and their agencies in the inspection and law enforcement, said ministry sources.
As per the draft law, anyone found guilty of mixing life-threatening chemicals in food would be sentenced either to seven years' imprisonment or fined Tk10 lakh or both. If anyone repeats the offence, the punishment will be doubled.
Initially, the draft had proposed the death penalty for such offences. But later the punishment was lowered on the recommendations of different stakeholders.
The draft proposed the formation of a National Pure Food Management Advisory Council, headed by the food minister and comprising members from different ministries and government, private and academic agencies. Besides, it proposed forming the BFSA, comprised of a chairman and five members.

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