Govt plans authority for food safety
Food ministry prepares draft lawMustafizur Rahman
The government has planned an agency to deal especially with food safety in the wake of the failure of related authorities in checking widespread adulteration of food items.
The food ministry has drafted a bill proposing the establishment of an agency called ‘Bangladesh food safety and quality control authority’ and stipulating a provision for a maximum of three years’ imprisonment for an offence under the proposed law.
‘We have drafted a law to bring departments and agencies now dealing with food safety under a single authority to check food adulteration,’ the food minister, Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, said on Wednesday as he presided over a meeting on the draft at the secretariat.
The move came amidst growing concern about the sales of chemical-mixed food items, mainly fish, vegetables and fruit exposing humans to serious health hazards, the minister said.
The cabinet committee on law and order at its 11th
meeting at the secretariat on July 24, 2012 asked the authorities to crack down on food adulteration, especially the use of chemicals such as formalin and carbide in fruit, vegetables and fish.
It ordered a combing operation against the use of injurious chemicals in food items which could cause even deadly diseases such as cancer. But there was no visible progress in the execution of the order as yet, officials said.
The food minister said that senior officials of various ministries attending the meeting had admitted authorities had failed to implement the existing laws against people responsible for adulteration and sales of adulterated food items.
He said that the draft had proposed the establishment of a single authority to be led by a chairman.
‘The proposed authority will have five members and an executive director. The chairman will be appointed for a term of three years,’ the minister added.
He said that current workforce of different authorities responsible for ensuring pure food for the public would automatically come under the new agency once the food safety law came into force.
The existing laws relating to food quality control stipulate imprisonment for varying terms for similar offences, which created complications, the minister added.
Senior officials from various ministries along with the cabinet secretary attended the meeting.
‘We do not think that the new law would come of any use in ensuring consumer welfare as the existing laws are not implemented. A strict implementation of the Pure Food Ordinance 1959 can check such dishonest practice,’ the Consumers Association of Bangladesh general secretary, Md Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, told New Age.
As for plans to set up a single authority to exclusively deal with food safely issues, he said that it was eyewash and would not benefit consumers as present institutions such as city corporations were not functioning.
The food minister said that the new law would be an update on the Pure Food Ordinance 1959 which was amended last in 2005 and local government bodies were made responsible, among others, to check food adulterations.
‘But it s true that government bodies including city corporations did not perform their responsibilities against food adulteration, which has now reached an alarming level,’ the minister said in reply to a question.
He said that the meeting had suggested that the minimum punishment should be 7 to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least Tk 2.5 lakh for an offence under the new law, which now proposes three years’ imprisonment with a fine of Tk 50,000 as the maximum punishment.
Some traders and businessmen continue to adulterate food items mixing them with harmful chemicals flouting laws although there are occasional mobile courts to check the practice.
The pure food ordnance prohibits the ‘sale or use of poisonous or dangerous chemicals, intoxicated food colour… manufacture of or sale of food not of proper standard of purity.’
The cabinet on November 26, 2012 asked the food ministry to draft the food safety law in two months incorporating a provision for the establishment of a single authority to deal with adulteration more effectively and ensure pure food for the public, officials said.
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