Laxity in Inspection

Concern over food safety

Rashidul Hasan

29 November, 2020 12:00 AM printer

With the market being flooded with adulterated foodstuffs, it is the responsibility of the two city corporations of Dhaka to ensure food safety in the capital through regular inspections, but they seem to do little to this end, much to the concerns of the city dwellers.

The inspection of food items has seen a decrease in the capital over the last few years and the most worrying fact is that one of the city corporations did not send any sample for laboratory test for the last three years, according to data of the Modern Food Testing Laboratory and Training Centre.

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has nine food inspectors, known as sanitary officers, while Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) has eight, who are supposed to collect samples of food items from hotels, restaurants and other eateries.

According to the data, DSCC sanitary officers collected  907 food samples in 2014 while 10 in 2015, 458 in 2016, 361 in 2017, 17 in 2019 and 113 in 2020 so far and sent those to the Modern Food Testing Laboratory and Training Centre for testing. No sample was collected in 2018.

Although DNCC food inspectors collected 106 and 140 food samples in 2016 and 2017 respectively, they stopped gathering so since 2018.

Health officials at both the city corporations said a sanitary officer is supposed to submit two food items in a week and but they are not fulfilling their requirements

But the food inspectors are now being engaged in other works, including drives being conducted by different agencies, indulging Rapid Action Battalion, against food adulteration and mosquitoes, and waste management inspection.  Asked, DNCC Deputy Chief Health Officer Md Golam Mostafa Sarwar said he was unaware of the matter. “I’ve asked my nine sanitary officers to explain the matter. I’ll take effective measures to ensure safe food for city dwellers.”

However, DSCC officials refused to make any comment over the issue. A decline in substandard food items

The number of substandard food items has also seen a fall in the capital over the years, according to the rest reports of the Modern Food Testing Laboratory and Training Centre. In October last, DSCC food inspectors submitted 39 food samples but the laboratory found only two of them as substandard.

The record also shows that the laboratory found 319 food items substandard out of 907 samples tested in 2014 while 74 out of 458 in 2016, 40 from 361 in 2017, only 1 out of 17 food samples in 2019 and 10 out of 142 food samples this year so far.

Meanwhile, the operation of the food laboratory remained halted in 2015 as its public food analyst went on post-retirement leave, officials concerned said.

Previously, the percentage of adulterated food items was much higher as the samples were tested as per the standard set in the Pure Food Rules 1967.

But food samples are now being tested following the standard set by Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI). Whereas BSTI standard allows 5 percent fat rate, the Pure Food Rules used to allow 10 per cent in sweetmeat, edible oil and ghee.

Insiders said test results of many food items are manipulated in connivance with food laboratory officials and sanitary inspectors.

Talking to the Daily Sun, President of Consumers Association of Bangladesh Ghulam Rahman said the city corporations have the manpower to collect food samples but they are not doing their job properly to ensure safe food for all. “If their activities remain suspended, they should shut the departments. There’s no need of such a department.”

Numbers of cases 

The DSCC collected 4,051 food items from January, 2011 to October 2020 and filed 66 cases against food companies under Bangladesh Food Safety Act, 2013. Seeking not be named, a DSCC food inspector said they have filed cases against Hakim Puri Zarda, Obe Slim, Dhaka Prime Sweet, Maya Special Khati Gawa Ghee, Horlicks Glass Jar, Marks Diabetics Milk, Bangladesh Milk Producers’ Cooperative Union Limited (Milk Vita), Pran Dairy, Aarong Dairy, Akij Food and Beverage Limited, Baro Awlia Dairy Milk and Foods (Dairy Fresh), Ichhamoti Dairy and Food Products (Pura), Igloo Dairy, Shilaidaha Dairy (Ultra Milk) and Tania Dairy and Food Products recently among major companies.  The DNCC has so far filed 53 cases while it conducted mobile court drives against Dhali Super Shop Ltd, Khana Khazana, Agora, KFC and Kingfisher Second Cup Coffee.

The companies that were sued include Meghna Group of Industries and Panopoly Foods Ltd.