Monday, 29 May, 2023

Unsafe iftar items – a threat to public health

The prices of food items continue to be exorbitantly high, and no mitigation of the people’s hardship in this regard has taken place, even in this holy month of Ramadan. As for iftar, the ceremonial meal that every fasting Muslim has to consume after sunset, high prices are not the only challenge to be braved; the rampant adulteration of food items and their deliberate contamination with toxic chemicals by a section of unscrupulous traders has been going on unabated for years.

Some of the recent news reports about the use of adulterated ingredients in preparing of iftar items were perturbing. According to the reports, most of the iftar items being sold in restaurants and makeshift shops in the capital are not safe for health as these are prepared by mixing various poisonous chemicals and textile dyes. People consuming these items may be afflicted with various diseases, not excluding cancer.

Although some sporadic actions were taken, these almost proved to have no effect. The potent danger to public health is allowed to run its course claiming increasing numbers of victims suffering from liver, kidney disease and other kinds of food-related ailments.

In this regard, the state-run Bangladesh Food Safety Authority has taken up a commendable initiative of conducting awareness raising campaigns at the capital's iftar selling hubs. As part of the campaign, film actor Ferdous was seen touring eateries in some parts of Dhaka to raise awareness among businessmen as well as consumers about the importance of maintain health hygiene while preparing and having iftar items.

Public awareness about what they are eating and its impact on their health is a must, but at the same time there is also a need for holding restaurant owners accountable for reusing used edible oil and adulterated and toxic ingredients. The department of the Food Safety Authority may consider including this issue in their awareness raising campaign.