The court urges the prime minister to declare war on adulteration
The High Court has ordered authorities concerned to withdraw 52 products from the market, found to be substandard in tests conducted by the Bangladesh Standard Testing Institution (BSTI).
The bench of Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif and Justice Razik-al-Jalil gave the order on Sunday, with a petition hearing seeking withdrawal of these substandard products, following a BSTI report earlier this month.
The court asked BSTI, Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), and the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) to take immediate action to remove these products from the market and stop their production until they meet mandatory BSTI standards.
Ordering BFSA and DNCRP to submit a progress report by May 23 with implementation of the order, the court asked the three organizations to ensure food safety and proper standards for all products in the market.
The court also ordered the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority to ensure the supply of pure drinking water in pipelines to the people, especially the poor.
Saying that living in this country has become unsafe, the court on Sunday requested the government to give food safety the highest priority.
It urged the prime minister, the government, and the ruling party to declare war on food adulteration, similar to what was declared against drug smugglers and dealers. If necessary, the court said the government should declare an emergency too.
The court issued the order and made the observations on Sunday in the presence of BSTI Deputy Director Md Reazul Haque and BFSA Director Dr Sahadev Chandra Saha, who appeared in court following a summons issued last Thursday.
Barrister Shihab Uddin Khan, who filed the petition on behalf of Conscious Consumer Society (CCS), said: “The court ordered removal of the substandard products in line with the law.”
The court said that drives against food adulteration should be conducted throughout the year, not only during Ramadan.
Saying there is a Consumer Rights Protection Act in effect, the court wondered what else was needed. It added that the concerned officials already had authority to carry out their duties and they should do so.
The report and the petition
The BSTI released their report on May 2 which found 52 food items to be substandard and/or adulterated, out of 406 food items in 27 categories that it tested.
The products included: Duncan Natural Drinking Water, ACI Coriander Powder, Danish Turmeric Powder, Pran Turmeric Powder, Pran Curry Powder, Madhuban Lacchii Shemai, Baghabari Special Ghee, Mollah Iodine Salt, Rupchanda Sesame Oil (Bangladesh Edible Oil), Well Food Lacchi Shemai, Madina Iodine Salt, Dada Super Iodine Salt, Sun Food Turmeric Powder, Teer Sesame Oil, Pushti Sesame Oil, Fresh Turmeric Powder, Mithai Lacchi Shemai, Mizan Drinking Water, and more.
Various online and print media outlets ran reports that day and the next day, prompting CCS to send a legal notice to secretaries of the food, industries and commerce ministries, the DGs of BSTI and DNCRP, and the chairman of BFSA on May 6.
The citizen rights organization urged them to take the necessary action to have these products recalled within 24 hours.
However, no action was taken. The authorities failed to take any legal steps against the companies responsible for manufacturing the substandard products.
On May 9, after CCS filed the petition, the High Court expressed its dissatisfaction and summoned BSTI and BFSA officials to explain why they had failed to withdraw the products.