Vitamin-A deficiency has been identified as the most important preventable cause of night blindness in children
No traces of Vitamin-A have been found in 17 out of 50 samples of non-bottled edible oil, despite the law on mandatory fortification of all cooking oil with Vitamin-A.
The Edible Oil Fortification with Vitamin A Act-2013 mandated all businesses to enrich their edible oil with a certain level of the vitamin.
The rules mention that companies must have their brands tested by the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI). If the brands pass the tests, companies will mention this on the label of the bottles saying they are fortified.
However, among the 50 samples of non-bottled cooking oil, aside from the 17 samples with no Vitamin-A, BSTI found three other samples with Vitamin-A below the required amount.
The results were announced by BSTI Director General Md Muazzem Hossain, at a seminar jointly organized by BSTI and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (Gain), at BSTI's main office in Dhaka, on Thursday. Representatives of various edible oil refinery companies were present at the seminar.
The tests also showed that out of 44 samples of bottled cooking oil, 42 samples had Vitamin-A. Only two companies were found non-compliant.
"Legal action will be taken against these two companies selling bottled edible oil without any Vitamin-A," Muazzem said.
It has proven to be difficult to take action against businesses selling non-bottled oil, the director general said.
"These companies sell the oil in drums, or jars. It is difficult to identify these companies and take legal action, as there are no seals or labels mentioning a company's name," he said.
He instructed everyone to use bottled oil, with labels confirming their fortification.
Brands with fortified oil will have BDS 1769 on their label, while non-fortified ones will have BDS 909.
Bangladesh has struggled with Vitamin-A deficiency in the past, and the deficiency has been documented as a public health problem since the 1960s, and has been identified as the single most important preventable cause of night blindness in children.
Over the past 25 years, Bangladesh has been implementing a national vitamin A supplementation program targeting children of 9-59 months of age to prevent night blindness.