Markets are increasingly being flooded by the commodities with fake expiry dates or commodities whose genuine expiry dates have expired long ago. Fifty-five per cent urban consumers are fastidious about the manufacturing as well as the expiry dates of the commodities while buying products from the markets. The rest of the consumers care a little to cast a look at the consuming time-limits of the products they take home from the selling points and outlets. This phenomenon of ignoring crucially vital information is even more disappointing so far as the consumers of the rural and the semi-urban areas are concerned. According to a survey conducted by an NGO, more than 75 per cent consumers living in the interior or relatively remote areas even do not have any knowledge of the importance to know the expiry dates of the products.
BSTI, the institution responsible for ensuring quality and manufacturing schedule of all consumer products, does not have necessary tools and devices for making sure of the authentic production date and its harmless consuming time. The manufacturing time-frame tagged on the body of every product most of the time are not legitimised by the assigned authority since the authority concerned is disappointingly ill-equipped to deal with such a hugely massive process basically due to their hopelessly outdated technology and know-how.Even more disheartening is the fact that like many other sectors, the people working in such a crucially vital public health related body are not that much professional in providing service to the consumers. Moreover, their devotion and dedication is not above questions. What is more painful is the complaints that the certifying authority of the manufacturing products some way or the other are managed by the manufacturers and the management of the productions.
As a result of this pandemonium in the quality and standard controlling and ensuring process, millions of innocent consumers are routinely slipping into the vicious cycle of unhygienic anarchy. A survey revealed by a health NGO, clearly explains the horrifying graph as to how 83 per cent of the diseased people either directly or indirectly were affected by consuming the date-expired products.
Proper BSTI coverage to a wide range of products manufactured in the factories and mills obviously needs a huge manpower once the works of the controlling mechanism are to put in the active operational channel. Since the quality controlling authority badly suffers from the frustratingly inadequate manpower, the available better option left for the institution is to rely on the technology like many developed as well as developing countries. For instance, the USA, UK, Australia etc. quality control of the consumer products especially those of the food items is absolutely done by the sophisticated machines and devices.
Expiry tags of the products are directly concerned with our survival and life expectancy. Once the tags are legitimised properly by an institution of accountability, consumers will remain well protected and their hygienic standard will be upgraded up to the mark. However, the ground reality in Bangladesh shows an extremely grim picture regarding the expiry tags since it is mainly the manufacturers and the products-makers who in most cases buy the tagging license from the authority concerned and label the tags at their own sweet will. So, uncountable numbers of counterfeit products with absolutely fake tag tickets are being sold in innumerable selling points across Bangladesh.
We can hardly barter away our invaluable lives to the insatiable greed of the manufacturers and the mercenary officials of the responsible authority who are playing with our lives just for amassing the heaps of money. A multi-professional and powerful monitoring institution has to be constituted at the earliest possible time for meticulous review of the works and activities of the people working inside the attestation authority. The members of this national supervisory body have to be inducted from all strata of the society through a search committee so that only the competent and reliable persons reputed in their respective fields for their extraordinary sagacity can be placed here. Action-oriented suggestions of this disciplinary body have to be executed in the soonest possible time for the greatest interest of all who want to survive.
It is extremely serious a concern that the issue of safety and security of the food items has long been neglected or less-emphasised for reasons unknown. Speaking practically, it is absolutely difficult or impossible even for a clever consumer to segregate the hygienically usable products out of a non-exhaustive array of products, let alone the layman consumers. In this inescapable predicament, it goes beyond our comprehension as to why we have been left vulnerable so long without a strong protective shield.Right to safe and secure food is a genuine right of every citizen of any country and that it is the primary responsibility of any welfare state to ensure this right for every citizen. Legitimate tags obviously play a big role in fulfilling the national demand for safe foods. An updated policy for consumer items especially those edible ones is a crying need for sustaining a healthy generation. It is time to formulate this policy on the basis of appropriate suggestions from all stakeholders. Finally, it has to be remembered by all that any effective policy can turn on in full swing only if it can address the cases of deviations and irregularities with zero tolerance.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of English, Bogura Cantonment
Public School & College.