Food Safety Regime of Bangladesh: Different Stakeholders & their Responsibilities

Introduction:

Bangladesh is yet to develop a unified Food Safety Administration system and to formulate a Food Safety Policy. During the last decade, food safety became very important for the government, producers of food products and consumers. Article 15 of Bangladesh Constitution states that it shall be a fundamental responsibility of the state to secure provision of the basic necessities of life including food.  Article-18 of the Constitution states that the state shall raise the level of nutrition and improve public health as its primary duties. Both the Articles imply food safety requirements for consumers. State must ensure these through enactment of appropriate laws. There are three types of food hazards: (a) microbiological hazards; (b) physical hazards; (c) chemical hazards. Unfortunately, the concerns so far have not been backed by solid scientific research of the extent of the problems, their root causes, the stages of food chain where the adulteration or willing contamination occurs, the technical, social, economic factors behind such contamination, the health impairment due to unsafe food, and the legal, policy and institutional aspects for minimising or eradication of the problem. Consequently, the attempts to ensure safe food had been only sporadic, ad hoc, incomplete and ineffective. The policy formulation in Bangladesh was based on poorly measured implementation efforts and decision-making clear of stakeholders’ participation.  The issue needs crucial attention of academics due to its rigorous effects on food security and health system.

Laws and Regulations of food safety in Bangladesh:

There are several laws in Bangladesh for maintaining health and safety standards. All information, related there to, was gathered from a seminar of global forum for food safety regulators held in Bangkok in 2004 organized by the FAO/WHO/(FAO/WHO, 2004).

 

  1. The Bangladesh Pure Food Ordinance, 1959: This is an ordinance to provide better control of the manufacture and sale of food for human consumption. Now this Ordinance is under revision as “The Bangladesh Pure Food (Amendment) Act”.
  2. The Bangladesh Pure Food Rules, 1967: In this rule, there are generic standards for 107 food products. Now, the “ Rules” is under revision
  3. The Food Grain Supply (Prevention of Prejudicial activity) Ordinance, 1956 (Ord.xxvi of 1979): This ordinance provides special measures for prevention of prejudicial activity relating to the storage, movement, transhipment, supply and distribution of food grains.
  4. The Radiation Protection Act, 1987: Under this Act, the institute of Food and Radiation Biology (IFRB) of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission is primarily involved in food irradiation research and development in the country.
  5. The iodine Deficiency Disorders Prevention Act, 1989: This Act has enacted for universal salt iodisation and banned non-iodised salt from market aimed to ban IDD from the country.
  6. Fish and Fish product (Inspection and Quality Control) Rules, 1997: These rules are basically meant to develop quality improvement to promote export trade. The quality control of fish and fish products in the country has earned reputation among the importing countries.
  7. The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution Ordinance, 1985: This ordinance relates to establishment of an institution for standardisation testing, metrology, quality control, grading and marking of goods. Within the framework of this Ordinance, the government has established the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institutions (BSTI). One important task of this organisation is to certify the quality of commodities, materials, whether for local consumption or for export and import. The Ordinance has been amended as The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (Amendment) Act, 2003.” The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution Ordinance, No XXXVII of 1985” since its establishment, it is the sole body to look after the quality of the products in Bangladesh. BSTI is committed to provide legal framework for standards, metrology, testing and quality (SMTQ) in line with the international norms and practices.
  8. Bangladesh- New food safety laws 17 Jan 2010: The parliament is expected to frame he act to regulate fish and animal feed production, prevent contamination and deal with other compliance issues.
  9. The Cantonments Pure Food Act-19/07/1966: To prevent the adulteration of food in all Cantonments in Bangladesh and to regulate the sale and manufacture of food.
  10. The Pure Food Ordinance 1959: This Ordinance provides norms for processing products to be consumed as food in order to avoid any adulteration that could harm consumers.
  11. The Animal Slaughter (Restriction) and Meat Control Act-23/04/1957: This Act provides for the restr8applied to the slaughter of animals and the consumption of meat as per section 2 to 5.
  12. The Food (Special Courts) Act -13/11/1956: Fir setting up of Courts for speedy trial of offences in relation to foodstuffs.
  13. The Seed Rules-08/03/1998: The seeds Rules provides for the institution of the National Seeds Board about its tasks and all the related procedures dealing with.
  14. Protection and Conservation of Fish Rules/Act -17/10/1985: It covers (a)The Protection and Conservation of Fish Rules, 1985 and (b) Protection and Conservation of Fish Act,1950.
  15. The Breast-Milk Substitutes (Regulation of Marketing) Ordinance- 24/05/1984
  16. The Marine Fisheries Rules 1983
  17. The Marine Fisheries Ordinance ,1983
  18. Others laws and regulations are-The Animal Slaughter (Restriction) and Meat Control (Amendment) Ordinance, 1983, Consumers’ Right Protection Act,2009 is to be passed soon. There are some policies i.e. Bangladesh Food and Nutrition policy,1997 and National Plan of Action on Nutrition, National Agricultural Policy,1999; Integrated Pest Management Policy,2002 etc .

Assessment of Food items in Quality and Quantity:

There are many Laboratories which are responsible for qualitative and quantitative assessment of food items. The following laboratories functions are given bellow-

  1. Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institutions (BSTI) under the Ministry of industries. In 2008-10, BSTI performed more than 500 mobile courts, samples collected from open market[1] issued show cause notice issued to manufacture, some license were cancelled  and legal actions are taken.
  2. Laboratory of the Institute of Public Health Nutrition under the MOHFW – dealing with the monitoring of the quality of iodized salt and others.
  • Food Testing Laboratory, Directorate of Food under the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management. In 2002-03, this laboratory tested 242 rice samples, 291 wheat and 6 oil which were respectively 3,20and 49 in 2000-01.[2]
  1. Public Health Laboratory of the Institution of Public Health, Dhaka under the MOHFW. Some 5000 food samples are tested here annually, sent by the sanitary Inspectors from different Upazilas and Municipalities. Results indicated that there are as many as 50% of the samples are found unsatisfactory. But this does not reflect the real picture of the food quality of the country. Because most of these samples are biased i.e. suspected as unsatisfactory food items by the Sanitary Inspectors, not collected randomly.
  2. Food Testing Laboratory of Dhaka City Corporation under the MOLGRD. In 2003, a total samples were tested in the Public Health Laboratory of the Dhaka City Corporation which was 430 in the year 2000.
  3. Institution of Food Science Technology, Dhaka; Bangladesh Council of  Scientific and Industrious Research (BCSIR)  as well as its branches of Chittagong and Dhaka under ministry of Science and Information &Communication Technology.
  • Laboratory of Department of Livestock under the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.
  • Institute of Food Radiation Biology, Atomic Energy Commission under the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.
  1. Institution of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Dhaka under the Ministry of Education.
  2. Armed Forces Food and Drug Testing Laboratory, Dhaka Cantonment, Dhaka under the Ministry of Defence.
  3. Central Laboratory and Lab of Post Harvest Technology of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and Lab of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute under the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • Department of Dairy Science and Department of Biochemistry of Bangladesh Agricultural  University
  • Chemical Examination Laboratory of CID under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Quality Control Laboratories for frozen fish at Khulna and Chittagong under the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. Under this Ministry, there is also Lab at Fisheries Research Institute, Mymensingh.
  1. Environment Laboratory, Directorate of Environment under the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
  • Laboratory of Plant Protection Wing of DAE of Ministry of Agriculture: this lab tests both imported and exported vegetables and fruits.

 

Major Stakeholders, Ministries & Departments:

Food Control in Bangladesh is a multi- sectorial responsibility. Following is a chart showing the different stakeholders in the different aspects of food safety regime:

Ministry Department/ Organisation Major policy
Ministry of Agriculture Plant Protection Wing, DAE Phyto sanitary certificate for import and export plants

Pesticide use Control

Fertilizer Use Control

Ministry of Food Directorate General of Food (DGF) Quality Control of PFDS, STOCK, procured Food grains/Food stuff, imported food etc.

Food Control in the market (not during at present)

Ministry of Health &Family Welfare Directorate General of Health; District&Upazila Health Administration and Institute of Public Health. Food quality and sanitation control in Upazila /District level

Testing

Ministry of LGRD City Corporation & Pourashava Health Units Have Sanitary inspectors, Labs and Public Analyst for food quality control in their command areas.
Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock I. Departmentof Fisheries  (FIQC Wing)

 

 

ii. Department of Livestock

Fish quality and Control Certification for export

Same to the domestic market

 

Animal Health

Animal product

Imported animal

Ministry of industries BSTI Frame standards of food products

Testing & certification Marks and Surveillance

Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology i. BAEC

 

 

 

ii. IFST, BCSIR

Testing radiation level of Imported Food items; Pesticides Residues

 

Testing of Food items; Research and Development

Ministry of Education DG, primary

DG,secondary

Text book board, universities

Food safety, Nutrition & Environmental issues in the text book of all level of education.
Ministry of Information PIB

BTV

Radio Bangladesh

Broad cast issues for awareness building
Ministry of Home Bangladesh Police Assist the inspection Agencies
Ministry of Law, Justice &Parliamentary Affairs Formulation, Vetting, Parliamentary Approval etc.

 

The following Ministries, Departments Agencies are directly and indirectly responsible for enforcement of food laws, rules and regulations:

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW): The MOHFW is responsible for monitoring of food quality and safety situation including collection of food samples. Inspection of food manufacturing/processing and selling premises is the major responsibility for the enforcement of food control legislation to ensure safe food.

Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives (MOLGRD): MOLGRD is responsible for the food safety and quality of food in City Corporation and Municipalities.

Ministry of Food and Disaster Management: They are responsible for quality of imported and locally procured food grains and other food items at the Upazila and District level.

Ministry of Industry: It is responsible for Standardisation; Certification Marks and Monitoring quality control of food items through its BSTI.BSTI is responsible for implementing food regulations in Bangladesh.

Ministry of Agriculture: It is involved in maintaining safety and quality of food through good agricultural practices like optimum use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, preservation and supply of seeds.DAE Service of this Ministry is working together with Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission to perform a survey to monitor for residues of pesticides in agricultural products all over the country.

Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock:  Of this Ministry, the Department of Fisheries is responsible for prevention and control of diseases in fishes & aquatic animals and safety and quality of fish and aquaculture products. Fish Inspection and Quality Control (FIQC) wing mandatorily introduced and implemented HACCP in Fish processing industries. The Directorate of Livestock is responsible for animal health and quality and safety of product of animal origin.

In addition, the Ministries like Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources,  Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Defence  are also responsible for food safety and quality control.

 

Violation of Food Safety Laws: Some Case Studies

Products bearing the standard mark are collected by the surveillance team of the institution directly from the open market and tested in the BSTI Laboratory. Representatives from the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) and the respective chamber of commerce and industries help the surveillance team in performing its function. But they are not doing their duty properly. There are some cases where the negligence of these institutions is proved. There are some cases given bellow:

Case Study 1- Prepared Frozen Food[3]

   Description or Definition under Food Act Reference Voluntary or quality or standards
Scope or description No standards available Bangladesh Pure Food Laws,1967
Positive or negative list Not available  

Use limitations or maximum level Not available  

 

 

Case Study 2-Instant Noodles[4]

Description or Definition Reference Voluntary or quality or standards
Scope or description No specific description available Bangladesh Pure Food Laws,1967  BSTI standards
Positive or negative Not available  

 

Use limitations or maximum level  

 

 

 

 

Case Study 3-Cow’s Milk[5]

Description or Definition under Food Act Reference Voluntary or quality or standards
Scope or description Details provided under Overview on Cows milk and other milk products Bangladesh Pure Food Laws,1967
Positive or negative list No reference on positive and negative list
Use limitations or maximum level Solid not fat not less than 8.5%

Milk Fat not less than 3.5%

Lactose not less than 4.4%

Specific gravity between 1.028 and 1.032

Bangladesh Pure Food Laws,1967

 

BSTI is responsible for setting up specification and standards of food products,  regulating, monitoring and enforcing the law concerning food quality control and adulteration. The limitations of the BSTI is that it has only 30 officers for monitoring and controlling, and also lacks modern analytical laboratories and trained manpower. There are 650 inspectors at district and municipal levels while Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) has only 28 inspectors to monitor food adulteration (www.bsti.gov.bd). According to M.S.Siddiqui (2014) food control in Bangladesh is a multi-sectorial responsibility. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2014 told that the Parliament, “Activities including adulteration of the food items that go against the consumer’s interest have been declining gradually due to strict measures already taken by the government while the consumers started to get its benefit.

Urgent Actions Necessary:

The stakeholders have legal responsibilities to take care of this point. Prevention of food borne illness and improvements in food quality requires the development and delivery of enhanced education on how to improve food safety and quality. Training activities and technical support materials should be developed and also enhanced support for consumer associations. These actions will result in increased public awareness of food safety:

  1. Bangladesh needs as well to strengthened national food inspection and enforcement services. The goal of this strategy should to develop and implement risk-based inspection programmes, enforced by properly trained, resourced and supervised food inspectors.
  2. The stakeholders should include the development of a coordinated, risk based food control programme that covers the entire food supply chain from frame to table.
  3. The stakeholders should urgent enhance food analysis capability and capacity through the establishment of well-equipped National laboratories, operated by trained analysts utilizing standard methods which are performed under laboratory quality management arrangements.
  4. Sometime the main source of food risk is the contaminated soil where those food are produced. In such a case natural remedies to solve toxin problems of soil may be the main solution.
  5. Stakeholders are not aware of the health hazards of certain products which they use in the food, for example, testing salt. Awareness of health hazards of this kind of chemicals must be raised. Even legitimate use of chemicals beyond specific threshold levels may make food unsafe.
  6. Implementation of regulations also requires several tools such as quick and quality food testing facilities along with efficient manpower. Intensive research is necessary to discover and collate various traditional ways of keeping food safe. A database of such traditional knowledge should be developed.
  7. Mobile laboratories are necessary to monitor implementation of food safety laws which should be preceded by scientifically basedand globally applicable standards. There should be adequate supply of technicians, testing kits and central food testing facilities at least in every divisional city. BSTI laboratories are not enough. Moreover the speed of testing and reporting are critical issue. Long gestation in these procedures raises the possibility of undue interference in them by influential and dishonest stakeholders.
  8. Food safety programme is a collaborative programme of Govt. Of Bangladesh and WHO is being implemented in Bangladesh since 1994. Under the food safety programme the major activities are strengthening of public health laboratory, procurement of instruments and equipment, training on laboratory personnel and for health managers and Sanitary inspectors, national and regional seminars; information, education and communication activities for school children, owners of hotel management, food vendors; researchworks on quality of different food items epidemiology of food borne diseases etc. These programmes should be implemented very stickily.

 

Conclusion

Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation and storage of food in ways that prevent food borne illness food contamination and adulteration are significant challenges which need to be addressed in close collaboration with all concerned stakeholders. Bangladesh’s Food Standard policy was formulated without proper consultation and inclusion of stakeholders such as the citizens, NGOs, media and the researcher sector. As a result, different opinion, miss-communication and distrust among different groups about the initiative and intention of the government in solving the food adulteration problem. There are significant activities in food safety and quality going in our country. Different stakeholders i.e. Ministers, Departments, Agencies are involved in these activities with a major responsibility of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. These stakeholders have legal responsibilities towards the country and the people. Some problems and issues arise about their duties. There are other issues that have recently emerged in Bangladesh’s food policy scope. The most pressing, perhaps, relates to genetically modified organisms. From the evidence it may be stated that in Bangladesh food safety rules and laws are not enough to deal with the problem. Authorities should develop adequate infrastructures as well as public awareness and most importantly performing the responsibilities of different stakeholders to manage the situation.

References: 
[1]
Laws and Regulation to Foods and Food additives, Country Report, Bangladesh
[2]Laws and Regulations to Foods and Food Additives, Country Report, Bangladesh
[3]Guidance Notes for Food Business Operators on Food Safety, Traceability, product withdrawal and recall.A guide to compliance with articles 14,16,18 & 19 of General Food Law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 by Food Standard Agency (2007)
[4]ibid
[5]Ibid

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Suparna Roy

A student of 2nd year, department of law, University of Chittagong. (The Second Prize Winner in the SCLS Legal Essay Competition, 2017)