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Watch what you eat

  • Published at 12:09 am December 9th, 2019
Mobile laboratories for food safety
Instruments seen inside the mobile lab Fahim Raza Shovon/Dhaka Tribune

Food adulteration remains a burning issue

Ensuring safe food has swiftly become a burning issue in Bangladesh.

Adulteration of food seems to have become a tradition in our country. Everything on the market -- including fruits, vegetables, rice, and other necessary goods -- is adulterated somehow or the other. 

Currently, a majority of people in our country has no access to safe food. City folk are more vulnerable to unsafe food rather than villagers. That means that ensuring safe food for all is now a big concern for the authorities concerned. 

Considering this issue, the government formulated an act called the Food Safety Act 2013 to ensure safe food for all. Under this act, a government body has been formed and named Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA); it is the predominant regulatory body in charge of the safety of all food, from farm to table. 

Food safety refers to the handling, preparing, and storing of food in a way that is best equipped to reducing the risk of individuals becoming sick from food-borne illnesses. The principles of food safety aim to prevent food from becoming contaminated and causing food poisoning. This is achieved through a variety of different avenues, some of which are:

• Properly cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces, equipment, and utensils

• Maintaining a high level of personal hygiene, especially hand-washing

• Storing, chilling, and heating food correctly with regards to temperature, environment, and equipment

• Implementing effective pest control

• Comprehending food allergies, food poisoning, and food intolerance

In Bangladesh, the aforesaid principles are not properly practiced. To train food processing personnel in food handling and marketing the principle of food safety, BFSA was formed. The authorities regularly conduct mobile courts in different regions of Dhaka to ensure safe food for all. Recently, a “Mobile Food Safety Laboratory” was launched in Bangladesh. The project is implemented by USAID, in collaboration with the Ministry of Food. 

The mobile laboratory would detect the adulteration status of the food. Contamination and adulteration related visuals will be screened, along with tips to raise awareness. The air-conditioned laboratory is established in a mini-bus, and will consist of at least 10 scientific instruments, chemicals, and other necessities. 

Using this mobile lab, one can identify various chemicals such as formalin, pesticides, heavy metals, toxic chemicals, insecticides at harmful levels, antibiotic residue, e-coli, salmonella, formaldehyde, and carbide in food. Based on the type of test, it will take between five minutes to eight hours to complete the entire process. 

The lab is the first of its kind in our country, and an urgent measure much needed for ensuring safe food and protecting public health. Considering the importance of protecting public health, the launching of this lab is ‍a breakthrough step. However, it is merely a step forward towards achieving complete food safety. 

In the near future, this lab will be installed in every district to ensure food safety. It is a milestone. Safe food should not just be a necessity, it must be a right. Accelerating the employment of further food safety measures would not only help build a healthy nation, but a healthy nation will, in turn, boost the economy of the country. 

Md Billal Hossen is a student of Applied Nutrition and Food Technology.