It’s not just formalin

Formalin is only a fraction of the problem – pesticides are the main culprit

T he present anti-formalin drive in the capital can be termed as being “not enough.” The drive is limited to checking formalin-tainted fish, fruits, and vegetables entering the capital, but those contaminated with other chemicals will remain undetected because they can only check for the presence of formalin.

This drive may create a false sense of security in consumers regarding their food. Consumers are not getting safe foods. Almost all food items are unsafe because they contain highly toxic chemicals. Toxic chemicals are present in all vegetables and fruits, at least 20 times higher than the safety limit.

This drive is nothing but a cruel practical joke on hapless people. Had the government been serious about at least containing this slow poisoning of the people, they would have taken definite measures long ago.

The government’s dillydallying approach to fighting this very grave hazard to public health is apparent when we see: (a) The Safe Food Law 2013 not yet being enforced, (b) the highest punishment as per this law being a maximum of five years’ jail-time and a fine of Tk5 lakh, (c) the High Court’s direction of establishing one Safe Food court in every district being overlooked, (d) Safe Food Rules 2014 still in draft form, (e) Bangladesh Safe Food Authority not yet functional,

(f) formalin, carbide, etc available in plenty everywhere in the country, (g) the Ministry of Agriculture apathetic about spraying 50,000 tonnes of chemical pesticides costing Tk50bn per year – even highly hazardous banned  pesticides are being used in abundance and pesticide residue levels in agri-products are  20 times higher than the safe limit, (h) no real government initiative to implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in agriculture and  promote organic cultivation, (i) this anti-formalin drive is limited to the capital, when  it is the whole country that is being  poisoned.

It is common perception that our food items are poisoned with formalin only. This is only a fraction of the problem – pesticides are the main culprit. Each year, 50,000 tonnes of pesticides are making their way into the air, the water, and our bodies. In other countries, people are indirectly affected by environmental pollution. In Bangladesh, poisons in very high doses are directly going in to our bodies. The public health situation will grow direr each passing day. This will also adversely affect our productivity and GDP. Chemical terror has gripped the nation. We are finding it impossible to get any safe foods, even for our children.

Poison in our foods is presently the number one problem facing our nation. It needs to be addressed as such by the government. Access to safe foods is a basic human right. We demand our rights – give us poison-free, safe foods. Please start an all-out drive before it becomes too late.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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