Bangladesh has the highest number of laws, regulations and policies on safe food in the world. However, ensuring safe food still remains a major challenge in the country due to poor application of the laws and shortage of application tools.
Experts on public health opined that the full implementation of ‘The Safe Food Act, 2013’ and other relevant laws and regulations would address the menace of adulterated and unsafe food in the country. They said that the people are compelled to consume unsafe food in absence of proper implementation of the laws, regulations and policies.
Safe food, health and nutrition must be ensured in the country to achieve the SDGs and make a healthy generation.
Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, an expert on public health and secretary of the Centre for Law & Policy Affairs (CLPA), on Monday told
Bangladesh Post that there is no coordination between the law enforcement’ tools and human resources. As a result, the effectiveness is less despite having many laws and rules in the country.
The Law Commission in its report number 145, which was placed over food safety laws, states that there are a total of 43 food related laws in Bangladesh. There are seven regulations for enforcing these laws.
The laws include The Food Safety Act, 2013; Penal Code, 1860; Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009; The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution Act, 2003; The Bangladesh Hotels and Restaurants Ordinance, 1982; Pure Food Ordinance, 1959; Special Powers Act, 1974; The Control of Essential Commodities Act, 1956; The Food (Special Courts) Act, 1956; The Cantonments Pure Food Act, 1966; The Animals Slaughter (Restriction) and Meat Control (Amendment) Ordinance, 1983; Agricultural Produce Markets Regulation Act, 1964 (revised in 1985); The Protection and Conservation of Fish Act, 1950 (amended in 1995); The Marine Fisheries Act, 2020; Fish and Fish Products (Inspection and Quality Control Ordinance, 1983; The Food or Special Courts Act, 1956; The Food Grain Supply (Prevention of Prejudicial Activity) Ordinance 1956; The Local Government (City Corporation) Act, 2009; Local Government (Paurashava) Act, 2009; and The Mobile Court Act, 2009.
Alongside the laws, many other regulations and policies on safe food exist in the country to ensure safe food. These include the National Food & Nutrition Security Policy, 2020; National Food Policy, 2006; the National Health Policy, 2011; the Pure Food Rules, 1967; the Destructive Insects and pests Rules (Plant Quarantine), 1966 (amended in 1989); Marine Fisheries Rules 1983; Fish Products (Inspection and Quality Control) Rules, 1997; The Pesticides Rules, 1985; Financial Rules of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, 2019; and the Safe Food (Food Processing and Administration System) Rules, 2014.
No other country in the world has so many laws to ensure safe food. “Since there are so many laws, the solution is to implement the laws in a coordinated and proper manner,” said Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin.
Abu Naser Khan, chairman of Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba), told Bangladesh Post that proper application of the Food Safety Act, 2013 and other relevant laws, regulations and policies is a must in order to produce safe food in the country. He said that the application of laws in the country has increased more than the past and for this reason the production of safe food has also increased, but this is not sufficient.
Bangladesh has now moved closer to the world’s leading countries in the production of paddy, fish and vegetables. Despite the huge demand for organic agricultural products, the production and market of organic agriculture are not growing as per the expectation, he added.
He demanded regular test of all food and beverages and release of the test results in order to ensure safe food in the country in the interest of public health. Application of the law is needed to ensure food test.
Although many are emphasizing the proper application of the law; but it is a complex task. The current food control system in the country involves a number of ministries. At least fifteen ministries are involved in food safety and quality control, while at least ten ministries are involved in food inspection and enforcement services.
However, there is no proper coordination among the ministries and departments concerned. Sometimes the use of so many laws on the same subject and for a single purpose causes problems and creates confusion among the stakeholders. The enforcement authorities often fail to identify the law, which deals with an issue. There are a few food laboratories under various government, autonomous and international organisations in Bangladesh.
The shortage of the laboratories and absence of coordination also create problems in application of the laws many times. Suppose a food inspector goes on a campaign to prevent adulterated food in a restaurant as per the Bangladesh Hotels and Restaurants law; but he can’t perform duty properly due to complexities in the laws and absence of application tools. Because he does not have a laboratory. As a result, the lack of coordination between human resources and labs is responsible for his incompetency.
Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin said that the human resources and the labs must be coordinated, while the shortage of manpower has to be resolved to make the laws effective. Gaous Pearee, Director at Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust, echoed Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin.