The High Court (HC) yesterday expressed grave concern over the poor attempts made by government organisations to stop food adulteration and to take legal action against the persons responsible for leading people towards death by supplying contaminated food. It also expressed anxiety because 52 food items are yet to be withdrawn from the market, even though these have been found substandard by the Bangladesh Standard Testing Institution (BSTI).
The HC bench also asked officers of BSTI and Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) not below the rank of deputy director to appear before it on next Sunday to inform the court about their activity against the 52 food products found sub-standard by BSTI.
The HC bench of Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil came up with the verbal order during the hearing on a writ petition filed seeking its directive on the government for taking steps to seize or withdraw the food products from the market. It fixed next Sunday for further hearing on the petition. During the hearing, the HC bench
wanted to know about the activity of BSTI office bearers.
BSTI is a specialised government office, which found 52 sub-standard food products after examining these products.
But it did not take any action against the offenders, except issuing a showcause notice to the offenders.
The BSTI authorities should have seized or withdraw these products from the market soon after getting these contaminated food products, the HC bench said.
“BSTI officials can leave their office if they fail to take appropriate action against the offenders for the sake of public interest and their lives,” the HC bench said.
The HC bench also raised question about the activity of BFSA regarding the matter, saying that the law has given all rights to take action against the offenders. “BFSA officials can see everything in the light of law. But what they are doing? They can leave their office if they fail to take action against the offenders,” it noted.
“Why the food safety situation is like this? At least one public interest litigation issue comes up before the court every week. It is the government’s duty to look after such issues. Food items are being adulterated and people are being burned to death inside jail. Should we stay silent even after seeing this?” the HC told deputy attorney general Mukhlesur Rahman, who represented the state during the hearing of the case.
“Why BSTI examines food items only during Ramadan? What are its activities after Ramadan?” the HC said.
“We should know the latest status of these food products from BSTI. People eat all these products. It is very unfortunate for us that our people are having substandard food items,” it noted.
Conscious Consumers Society, a rights organisation, filed the writ petition with the HC seeking its directive upon the government to withdraw or seize all 52 substandard food items from the market. The petition also sought a court order upon the government to stop production of the substandard food products by companies.
The organisation filed the petition as it did not get any reply to its legal notice served on May 6 for seizing or withdrawing the substandard food products from the market.
Among the top companies whose products have been found substandard are Pran, Danish, Well Food, Duncan, ACI Pure, Molla Salt Industries, City Oil Mill, Bangladesh Edible Oil Ltd and Kashem Food Products Ltd.
Barrister Shihab Uddin Khan sent the legal notice on behalf of CCS, saying that BSTI has reportedly found 18 substandard food items and directed 47 food manufacturers to give reason for violation of the relevant standard.
A surveillance team of BSTI collected 406 samples of 27 types of popular food products in the last two months.
Among the trendy food products are Teer mustard oil of City Oil Mill, GB mustard oil of Green Bleaching Vegetable Oil Industries Ltd, Pusti mustard oil of Shamnam Vegetable Oil Industries Ltd, Rupchanda mustard oil of Bangladesh Edible Oil Ltd, Sun chips of Kashem Food Products Ltd, Ara drinking water of Arra Food and Beverage Ltd, Al Safi Drinking Water, Mizan drinking water of Shahari and Brothers, Morn Dew drinking water of Morn Dew Pure Drinking Water Section, Duncan natural mineral water of Duncan Product Ltd., RR Dew drinking water of RR Dew Purifying Drinking, Dighi Drinking Water, Pran vermicelli of Pran Agro Ltd, Dudli noodles of New Zealand Dairy Products BD Ltd, Tasty, Tani, Taskia soft drink powder of Shanto Food Product, Priya soft drink powder of Jahangir Food Products, Danish turmeric powder of Danish Food Ltd., Pran turmeric powder of Pran Agro Ltd, Fresh turmeric powder of Tanvir Food Products.