Each year, millions of people are affected by different diseases due to unsafe food in Bangladesh. These diseases include kidney-related problems and cancers, among others.
A Japan Journal of Clinical Oncology (JJCO) report shows that abnormal cells in the body of at least 17 million people are increasing day by day. If this continues, 22 million people are at risk of developing various types of cancers in the next ten years in Bangladesh. Food adulteration and unsafe food consumption are two of the main reasons for this epidemic.
Palash Mahmud is one person who is working tirelessly for the establishment of consumer rights and prevention of food adulteration. He is the founder of Conscious Consumers Society (CCS) and its youth wing, Consumer Youth Bangladesh (CYS). Currently, he is the Country Director at International Youth Society, Executive Director at CCS, President at CYB and Country Coordinator at Global Citizen Summit.
Palash’s father passed away from esophageal cancer when Palash was five years old. Later, he found out that consumption of safe food can reduce the risk of cancer. Since then, his battle against food adulteration started.
CCS is a non-government organisation, which creates platforms to raise awareness about food adulteration and other consumer rights’ violations. It was founded in 2013, and received government registration in 2016. CCS’s youth wing, Consumer Youth Bangladesh, is currently working with 28 educational institutions of the country. Currently, 8,000 youths are members of the organisation.
CCS has been working on conducting research, campaigning, arranging workshops, basic training, debates, inspections, laboratory tests, fixing prices, taking adulteration preventive steps, and assisting the concerned authorities in implementing consumer rights, among other things, since its inception. Recently, CCS filed a writ petition in the high court with 52 substandard products and those products were banned throughout the country.
“Syndicate is largely responsible for the tendency of price hiking in Bangladesh. They control most of the product prices, including the rising cost of onions,” says Palash. “Our government is aware of the situation, yet no effective action was taken against this. As a result, this mayhem continues.”
Palash further talked about the challenges in his line of work. “The issue of adulteration and consumer rights in food is related to commercial enterprises. They don’t take criticism very well. So, they pressurise us sometimes,” he explains.
Palash believes that adulteration of food or violations of consumer rights should be reported right away and that the general public should be aware of such issues.
Palash plans to have one lakh members in CCS in the next five years. “Moving forward, we intend to focus on other issues such as disaster management, fire safety and gender discrimination, among others,” he adds.