Food adulteration in Chattogram has increased alarmingly in the last few months.
Basic food items adulterated with poisonous residues and manufactured food, including milk, butter, Ghee and soft drink, laced with toxic chemicals and other adulterants flooded the port city markets and shops in the last several weeks, especially before and during Ramadan, the month of fasting.
Experts said substandard food, including skimmed milk powder, condensed milk, cooking oil, vermicelli (Shimai), noodles, flour, palm oil, papor, araroot, bason and Semolina are available now in the port city as unscrupulous traders supplying abundantly these items to the city markets everyday banking on a fast growing demand for the same during the Ramadan and Eid.
They said these items are entering the market unabated which has become a serious public health concern but the concerned authorities are seldom plying any heed to the problem.
Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) central committee leader SM Nazer Hussain told the FE that some unscrupulous traders in the city are adulterating foods by mixing harmful chemicals with them which is posing serious hazards to public health. These low quality foods are not fit for human consumption.
He also said that chemicals including formalin, carbide and different colours used to dye fabric are being mixed with various food items. Besides, these foods are manufactured in an unhygienic environment.
Shahed Uddin, a city-dweller, said though mobile courts have been deployed which often conduct drives in different markets and factories and seize adulterated foods from the shopping centres and industry, penalise their manufacturers and sellers but the law enforcers have failed to prevent supply of the substandard food to the markets as the food return to shops and markets a few hours, sometimes minutes, after the raid is over.
"So, conducting raid is one word and stopping entry of adulterated foods to the market is different," he said adding arresting the offenders and handing out exemplary punishment to them would curb entry of these foods to the markets.
Rita Chowdhury, a homemaker said, "I bought some essentials for Ramadan the other day with a good amount of money. But, later, I noticed that all the food items I purchased were adulterated and not consumable for human. What can we eat now?"
CAB, Chattogram chapter, leaders expressed deep concern over the 'uncontrollable' market situation in the port city ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr and demanded that the authority intensify market monitoring and arrest the suppliers of the adulterated goods.
Some city-dwellers also expressed concern about the situation saying a section of importers, entrepreneurs and traders in collusion with some intermediaries have formed a nexus to manufacture and supply the substandard food to the markets.
They said despite the raids, many dishonest businessmen who are involved with the racket remained out of the net. The businessmen used to use textile dyes, carbide, ethopene and urea in the iftar items like reddish, jilapi, potato chop, saffron, beguni, peaju, sweetmeat, biryani and white muri (puffed rice) to make them look more attractive.
Sources said, some businessmen, importers and wholesalers formed syndicate to adulterate milk powder and other essentials. Usually, the dishonest traders sell the adulterated goods to local retailers. Consumers, especially the commoners, usually buy them from the retail markets as their prices are low.
Hotels, bakeries, restaurants and food manufacturing units are the main customers of milk powder, decomposed vegetables and other adulterated goods. They buy the items from the wholesale market and use them for making different kinds of food.
Neither the producers nor the retailers care for the public health and the manufacturers never seek certification from the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institutions (BSTI) before supplying the products to markets for sale.
Most of the packed vermicelli, vinegar, noodles, spiced and fried lentil, popcorn, pop-rice, jelly, pickle, tomato-sauce, powdered-lentil, soyasauce, molasses, butter oil and artificially flavoured fruit juice are adulterated, experts said. They are manufactured in hygienic places and, even at clandestine factories, they said.
It is alleged that diesel used in buses and trucks, rotten red chilly, onion and other extremely harmful materials are also being used to manufacture these products.