THE MYSTERIOUS DOMINATION OF FOOD/DRINKING WATER CONTAMINANTS AND ADULTERANTS IN BANGLADESH

 

Ironically even food color is being adulterated. Cheap food color is finding its way into many types of food. This includes the jilapi, beguni, alu’r chop, piaju. Ice cream, chewing gum, candy, chips, and even biryani may contain huge amounts of low-quality food color. Cooking oil that is so widespread too deep fry items should only be used once but many food vendors and eateries recycle burnt oil. Once the oil is used for cooking, it becomes oxidized. The more the oil is used, more pre-oxide will be created which is really disastrous for the body. It’s getting more toxic with continued usage. In 2017, police seized around 3,000 eggs suspected to be artificial during a raid in Patiya upazila, Chittagong. They also arrested two men – an egg wholesaler and another is supplier – suspected to be involved in the trade and marketing of fake eggs (Ashif, 2017). Doubt also pointed in rice also. The term ‘plastic rice’ was focused by the online media around 2010, when China outlined its use for adulteration of a premium rice called Wuchang, which is known for its aroma (The New Indian Express, 2017).

Table 6. Effect of Formalin Treated Food Consumption on Health.

Effect of Formalin Treated Food Consumption on Health

(Fatema et.al, 2016)

The Institute of Public Health (IPH) in Dhaka and the World Health Organization (WHO) in their joint study on food adulteration in 1994 tested 52 street vendors and found that all of their food samples were contaminated with different types of pathogenic microorganisms. They also conducted another study in 2003 in Dhaka city and found that around 100% of sweetmeats, 25% of biscuits, more than 50% of breads and 60% of ice creams (Table 7) were extensively adulterated (Rahman et al., 2005).

Table 7. Adulterants Used in Different Food Items of Animal Origin as Reported in Lay Press Reports.

(Sharifa et.al, 2014)

Consumption of adulterated food items may cause asthma, sore throat, larynx constriction, bronchitis, skin infections, allergic reactions, diarrhea, hematuria, circulatory failure, numbness, dizziness, kidney failure, stomach cancer, liver cancer, nervous disorders and many other diseases (Table 8). After consumption of adulterated food items, thousands of people are becoming sick. Children are the worst victims. An estimated three million people suffered from diarrhea during 2005-2009 and about 15% of children died in 2011 as reported by the Directorate General of Health Services (Nath, 2014). The long-term effects are also very severe especially the incidence of renal failure, liver damage and cancer which are alarmingly increase in Bangladesh. The accumulation of heavy metals, such as lead, chromium and arsenic accumulate in the body may causes kidney and liver failure and develop anomaly among children. Non-selective and aberrant use of antibiotics in poultry without following withdrawal period may result in unexpected residues in animal food and could cause serious health hazards to consumers. Research reports on antibiotic slags in broiler meat and liver from different farms and local markets for the presence of slags of ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin, oxytetracycline, doxycycline and amoxicilin antibiotics revealed significant level of exposure of antibiotic residues. There’s a greater chance of declining immunological responses and can detrimentally affect intestinal microbiota in susceptible individual. According to Prof. Muniruddin Ahmed (Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Dhaka University) Cooking cannot destroy antibiotic residues, which made them resistant to antibiotic treatment (Emran, 2016). Most Edible Oil are adulterated and most of the soybean oils, mustard oil and ghee sold to consumers are substandard.

Table 8: Toxic Elements in Noxious Addition of Food/Additives with Possible Outcomes

Toxic Elements

(Mirza et.al, 2014; Zubair et.al, 2013; Mohammad S, 2018; Arifur et.al, 2015; Nishat, 2017; Abu, 2013; Nehreen et.al, 2016; Newsdesk, 2018, Shafkat, 2013; Staff Correspondent, 2011; Sharifa et.al, 2014, Rajib, 2015; Editorial, 2014; Mahboob, 2015)

Milk in rural areas is usually devalued with dirty water, which may cause hepatitis. People have now come to know about a newer milk adulteration technique where sorbitol, and detergent used as thickening. ICDDR, B recent studies shows nearly 75% samples from primary-level producers were contaminated with coliform and more than 50% with fecal coliform bacteria. At the collection points, samples were found contaminated with a high number of coliform bacteria and fecal contamination of more than 90% while more or less 40 % of the samples had a high E coli count.  (Newsdesk, 2018). Vegetable and fruit samples collected from surrounding Dhaka (Savar, Dhamrai and Tongi) show the presence of textile dyes may cause diarrhea, food poisoning and other GI problems in the short-term, but in the long-term toxic materials will accumulate in the body with serious health implications (Asadullah, 2010).

Energy drinks Vs Carbonated drinks
The government has decided to prohibit the production, marketing and import of energy drinks under the guise of carbonated beverages with immediate effect (Business, Staff Reporter 2018). The Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI) at a council meeting on also resolved to take legal action against the companies that have been advertising their products as energy drinks after having them listed as carbonated beverages with BSTI. The move came after the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) wrote to BSTI about the production of energy drinks in the name of carbonated beverages should be discontinued, as the ingredients of the two are significantly different. There is no standard fixed for energy drinks in the country, Industries Minister told parliament once. Authority received complaints about the use of various highly addictive substances, including caffeine and opium, in energy drinks (Staff Correspondent, 2015). In 2012, a test conducted by Department of Narcotics Control on energy drinks from several local and foreign merchants had found unrestrained amount of beer, alcohol, artificial caffeine and sildenafil citrate (Generic of Viagra) as ingredients (Ashif, November 2017). The production and marketing of energy drinks under a license for carbonated beverage is deception, illegal under several laws including the BSTI Act and the Food Safety Act. Initially, the government will forbid companies to discontinue their production and marketing of energy drinks. Punitive actions will follow if they do not comply, said the official. The government will also revise the import policy in order to boycott the foreign energy drinks with harmful ingredients (Ashif, September 2017).

Safety Issues of Bottled Water
So-called mineral water supplied to household and offices in jars are not tested at all. Mostly, the water is filled in the jars right away from the tap and sometimes in the empty bottles of some of the well-known mineral bottle brands (Joynul, 2018). The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) has of late made a sensational revelation regarding the quality of water different companies supply for drinking in and around Dhaka. According to the findings of the government study, 'coliform bacteria' (pathogens from feces of humans and animals) has been found in 97% of so-called filtered water supplied in jars to households, shops and offices in the capital city of Bangladesh. A team of BARC researchers determined the 'horrifying' data while studying the level of minerals in jars and bottled water marketed in Dhaka city. The researchers sampled 250 jars from across the city's familiar places Gabtoli, Mirpur, Mohakhali, Mohammadpur, Dhanmondi, Airport, Uttara, Banani, Gulshan, Rampura, Malibagh, Bshabo, Motijheel, Jatrabari, Keraniganj, Sadarghat, Chaawk Bazar, New market, Elephant Road, Karwan Bazar, Farmgate and on the city's outskirts at Aminbazar, Savar and Ashulia. The level of 'coliform bacteria' in the samples collected from Gulshan, Banani, Bashabo, Chaw Bazar, Elephant Road areas areas was found significantly high in the research (Sarwar et.al, 2018 and Zubair, 2018). Meanwhile, a mobile court busted six fake mineral water plants in Bosila area, near Dhaka’s Mohammadpur and convicted six staffers to different terms of jail. The team also seized 2000 jars of water and destroyed those later (Online Report, 2018).

Food adulteration during Ramadan
The crime of those selling adulterated and unhygienic food items is very serious and strict action needs to be taken as per law against such guilty persons. According to media reports some 600 field-level sanitary inspectors are working across the country to ensure food safety for all during the holy month of Ramadan. Even more unfortunate is the fact that this nefarious practice increases exponentially during the month of Ramadan. It was found that coloring agents are used in oils, lentils, juices, sauses, spices. Formalin and carbide used in milk, meat, fish and fruit (Ahamed May, 2018). The shopkeepers and the merchants many of them with a pious fade try to earn a large amount of profit by this unethical practice, and so they play with the life and health of the people. They mix dangerous things in the daily eatables. These merchants and traders are the enemy not only of the nation and their own children but of the entire mankind. The holy Prophet (PBUH) has disowned those who indulge in this immoral business. He said the adulterator is not one of us (Editorial, 2017).

Sub-standard Vermicelli (Shemai) and Cow Fattening Ahead of Eid
Adulterated vermicelli flooded different markets in the capital ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the biggest religious festivals of the Muslims, posing a serious threat to public health. A section of corrupt businessmen is busy in manufacturing low-grade vermicelli in the port city ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr as the food item has a high demand in the day. According to local sources, some of the factories are using unprocessed palm oil and animal fat to produce Laccha vermicelli while harmful chemicals and toxic color were also used to make the food items. Bangla vermicelli is produced using flour and water and Laccha is produced with sugar, flour, water and oil. Mostly, the vermicelli is dried in unhealthy condition in the rooftop of the factories (Ahamed, June 2018). An anonymous, a seasonal vermicelli maker said a section of merchant in the city bought the inferior vermicelli and sell them tagging labels of famous companies. BSTI officials left a comment as Bangla vermicelli is used to make by seasonal factory for a certain time, it is not compulsory to take license from BSTI, but the factory should take certificate issued by the Sanitary Inspector (Mizanur, 2016; News Correspondent, 04 July 2016; Solaiman, 2017; Ahamed, 2018).  With Eid-ul-Azha in front, the Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba) has recently urged the government to monitor how cattle is being reared and fattened in the farms in the country (Editorial, July 24, 2018). Consciously causing such harm to public health so as to raise the price of cows is a crime, and must be dealt with swiftly. The use of steroids, antibiotics, growth hormone and other chemicals is forbidden by the Animal Feed Act 2010. Perpetrators may be faced with a year in prison, a Tk 50,000 fine, or both. A large number of farmers are engaged in cow fattening just before 3 or 4 months of Eid-Ul-Azha (Muslim festival), when they sell the animals with lucrative price. Visiting different villages in Ataikula, Santhia, Bera upazilas of Pabna, and Baghabari, Shahjadpur areas in Sirajganj, these journalists found that almost every domiciliary was using steroids, antibiotics and other chemicals for months in overt violation of law. Everyone -- from cattle farm owners to landless farmers -- wanted to take full advantage of this. These cattle-fattening drugs are also widely used in Manikganj, Faridpur, Barisal, Nilphamari, Chuadanga and some other districts. Meat consumption from these animals poses severe health risks for humans, stated by the proficient (Pinaki et.al, 2014). The changes to the cattle to be slaughtered caused by these injections are not merely cosmetic – severe health damage is done to humans by the consumption of this meat. While most traders would still claim that the fattening chemicals were not harmful, there is reason to believe these chemicals may cause cancer, kidney disease, and infertility in women (Tribune Editorial September, 2016).

Penalty Imposed on Famous Eateries
Isn't it surprising that like many occasional drives against various crimes, the fight against unhealthy food, too, has assumed the character of an occasional activity? While this should have been a continuous and uninterrupted activity round the year across the country, scattered and infrequent moves here and there, leave no everlasting impingement on the sellers and producers of unauthentic food items of all varieties. Gazette reports say that the drive against food adulteration is a recent disport. The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), the state watchdog to regulate the sector is reportedly checking the capital's food markets under the supervision of an executive magistrate. One has reasons to question the logic behind the drive in the capital alone, that too with just one magistrate. The effectiveness of the drive is bound to cause nothing more than a ripple with mobile courts penalizing a few sweetmeat shops, restaurants and if at all, some kitchen market sellers. The fact that such drives, scattered and impassive, failed to bring any control in the country's food market cannot be disputed. However, famous eateries/food chains are not devoid of these cases of adulteration and substandard food staffs. Penalty imposed on these popular food chain/shops should impart an idea to general people that paying high price is not always an indicator of good quality. Even a few of them were condemn more than once or twice for the same reason but below standard food serves never ended (Table 9). For a better view references regards are attached in this table with date published.

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