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Food Safety Also Ensuring Quality & Security

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Taslim Ahammad :
Food safety, quality and food security are interrelated concepts with a profound impact on quality of human life. Many unregulated farm cart feed millions of people daily, street vendors operating, offering no guarantee of safety and quality food, hence, food safety is a crucial issue in Bangladesh. Unfortunately the haphazard use of pesticides, toxin, food additives and preservatives is the threat to food safety in our country.
The number of food scandals, including adulterated, contaminated milk, bacteria in fresh foods, and melamine, antibiotic and dioxin tainted products, have gripped global attention and highlighted the critical necessity to protect the consumer against food contamination issues that do pose alarming health risk. Because of all this food safety, quality and security are paramount in Bangladesh.
Food safety relates to the production, handling, preparation, and storage and quality of food in ways that prevent food borne illness and injury, which includes tracking the food chain from its origins to when the product reaching the consumer.(FAO 2003) of the United Nations (UN), Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Food quality includes all other attributes that influence a product's value to the consumer.
UK Food Safety Act 1990, which requires that all food businesses supply food that: does not injure health, meets consumer expectations in terms of nature, substance and quality,and does not mislead the consumer in terms of presentation or description. WHO 2014, food safety is an essential component of sustainable agricultural and economic development and global health.Universally it is accepted that unsafe food is an important factor of malnutrition which causes various types of serious illnesses including diarrhoea along with other permanent consequences for the human body.
The food contamination and food adulteration situation of Bangladesh is a serious public health concern. Unsafe/contaminated food causes many acute and life-long diseases, ranging from diarrhoeal diseases to various forms of cancer. WHO estimates that globally foodborne and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases taken together kill about 2.2 million people annually, of them 1.9 million are children.
Adulteration of food with toxic chemicals harmful to health has reached an epidemic proportion in Bangladesh. The newspapers in our country have dubbed it as the 'silent killer'. It is very difficult to find a sector of food industry which is free of adulteration. From raw vegetable and fruits to milk and milk products to fish, meat and processed food every food item is contaminated. Almost every day in the newspapers, newer and newer methods of adulterating newer and newer types of foods are reported. Carbide, formalin, heavy metal, chemical, textile colours, artificial sweeteners, DDT, urea etc. are used rampantly for this purpose. Contamination of foods with toxic chemicals pose a serious threat to public health in Bangladesh, due to poor health literacy, level of awareness is very low.
Immediate effect of ingestion of such foods may be severe forms of diarrhoea (food poisoning), threatening life. In the long run, these chemicals in food adversely affect vital organs such as the liver and kidney resulting in organ failure and/or cancer and thus, untimely loss of life. This is because, under the purview of the law, rules and monitoring come the following offences: fake licenses, poor quality of food, substandard infrastructure and lack of maintaining hygiene, food adulteration, food impurity, incorrect information on food packages, selling products whose date have expired and so on.
All this unsafe food poses global health threats, endangering everyone. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with an underlying illness are particularly vulnerable. Every year 220 million children contract diarrhoeal diseases and 96 000 die.
According to WHO 2014, Governments should provide an enabling policy andregulatory environment, and establish, implement and enforce effective food safety systems to ensure that food producers and suppliers along the whole food chain operate responsibly and supply safe food to consumers.
Strategy and system recognized to solve this problem: (1) Food law, regulation, and standards (make use of food safety, quality security and Codex) (2) Food safety control management - (2.1) Inspection services (2.2) Laboratory services (3) Monitoring - (3.1) Surveillance of food borne diseases (3.2) Capacity for emergency response (4) Environmental sustainability: that may include components directly or indirectly related to food safety such as organic farming, POPs integrated pest management and so on (5) Agriculture Development policies, that may contain mentions to agriculture inputs supply (6) Research programmes: that may include themes regarding improving traditional food handling or storage conditions (7) Education programmes, where synergies can be leveraged when to comes to awareness raising about food hygiene issues (8) Training on public information, education, complain and communication.
To ensure consumer rights effectively in Bangladesh it is necessary to establish a separate and rapid consumer court to deal with cases of violation of consumers' rights. Empowering the consumer is also important so that the aggrieved consumers can individually sue against the violators. Civil society and media people should come forward to create awareness about the rights of consumer. A regulatory body should be transparent both externally and internally. Besides, the unnecessary bureaucracy must ultimately eliminate for such an important food safety, quality and security protection for quick effectiveness. Altogether, leaders and distinguished/elite individuals of the society should participate in the campaign to increase the awareness offood safety, quality and security and high alert to the authority.
The integrity of the best food supply chain management need to ensure the safety and quality, as well as protecting the consumer and promoting domestic and international food market. Hence, there is an urgent need to drive improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of food safety, quality and security in Bangladesh.
(Taslim Ahammad, Chairman, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology
University, Gopalganj, Bangladesh)

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