Food safety is a crucial issue in Bangladesh. As the agricultural production already meets up the current demand for daily major foods, in some cases it is already surplus. So, there is no issue of food scarcity now. But, unfortunately the indiscriminate use of pesticides, toxin, food additives and preservatives may be the future threat to food safety in the country.
Scant research information is available in this special section of toxicant in agricultural products and their quality evaluation because of less research and monitoring activities. Most of the Bangladeshi researchers - both in the country and abroad – are focused on the so called trendy research like Biotechnology, Molecular biology, Microbiology etc. As a result, the “quality and safety evaluation of agricultural products” gets least priority in current research world.
To improve food safety in Bangladesh, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) established a “National Food Safety Laboratory” in the Institute of Public Health at Dhaka in 2012 as a pilot research project. They already reported many banned pesticides like “DDT, Aldrin, Chlordane, Heptachlor and others” in fruits, vegetables, fishes and milk products. Those pesticides are present “at 3 to 20 times the limits set by the European Union”, according to the summary of the lab findings.
Most of the spices become adulterated by heavy metals, like lead in turmeric and chilli powder. Chromium, Arsenic contamination in recent days is also alarming in such food stuffs. These may cause liver damage, kidney failure and cancer.
Food safety versus Malnutrition
Fruits and vegetables are the main source of nutrition. But, these products in the market now become the least options for the daily consumers. Only city dwellers buy these products in case of no alternatives. Due to food safety issue, you may get the ‘unique’ apple in the street market of Bangladesh having long shelf life without any change. This is really alarming! Even you are going to be a fearer to the most popular fruit Mango due to the possible contamination of formalin, a potential toxicant. Thus malnutrition is associated with food safety.
Consumption of adulterated food may cause food poisoning (may be serious in some cases) and may lead to fatal diseases. As a result conscious consumers avoid the source of nutrition due to the possibility of food toxicity.
Ministry of food patron “Bangladesh Food Safety Authority” who only works on the basis of secondary research data like Codex, EU, EPA and finally published some regulations like “Food-Safety-(Contaminants,-Toxins-and-Harmful-Residues)-Regulations,-2017”. The law enforcement and implementation in such cases, are still questionable in Bangladesh.
There is no permanent fully-fledged analytical laboratory for testing these pollutants and other materials except some project based laboratory like UN-FAO founded National Food Safety Laboratory in the Institute of Public Health at Dhaka (mainly run by UN and Indian scientists) in collaboration with ministry of health and family planning.
There is a need of full fledged analytical state of the art laboratory having facilities of establishment of yearly crop specific MRL (Maximum Residue Limit) of Organic pollutants and pesticides in the agricultural commodities and its synchronisation with EU-Codex and EPA guidelines for international acceptance. LC-MS/MS, GC-MS/MS etc. facilities along with regular inspection of these products is the burning need for the future development of food safety and quality evaluation of agricultural products in Bangladesh.
Why we are not thinking for the “Institute of Food Safety and Quality Evaluation of Agricultural Products” in future? Thus not only the domestic products, but also the imported products may be brought under investigation. The Imported Tolerance (IT) of the pollutants and pesticides and the PLS (Positive List System) for minor crops (most common fruits and vegetables but not grown widely), registration of pesticides for the major crops will be established very properly for stopping of bad trading and unsafe use of agricultural products in future.
Merger of the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of food and Ministry of Health along with the agricultural research bodies in Bangladesh may ponder about the holistic solution to the establishment of Institute of Food Safety and Quality Evaluation of Agricultural Products. Thus we can overcome the future crisis of food safety over malnutrition for the next generation.
The writer is a PhD Researcher, Lab of Environmental Chemistry, School of Applied Bioscience, Kyungpook National University (KNU), South Korea. E-mail: [email protected]