Should safe food be a privilege? or a right?

The issue of Food Safety has been on the media for quite some time now. The resulting backlash has been worrisome, not just for the families wondering what to feed their children but also for the small holding farmers linked to the markets.

For example – there has been an outcry against use of formalin in fish. The market mechanism responded by transporting live fish to the kitchen markets in small drums. It’s a commendable effort and many families has resorted to buying live fish only. Live fish typically retails at a higher price – the cost of transporting the fish is higher, you can transport only a certain amount of fish in these makeshift tanks and fit in a significantly reduced number of these tanks & barrels in the trucks. These higher costs essentially relegate the poorer segment of consumers to resign to the reality of buying whatever other fish are in offer within their price range. On the small farmer side, the cost of investing in this supply chain can prove to be either inhibiting or alternatively leaves them more open to exploitation by the middle men.

This begs the question – should safe food be a privilege? or a right?

The constitution of Bangladesh is the only one in the world which guarantees safe food to its citizens. The recent Safe Food Act 2013 and other measures put in place demonstrate a certain level of commitment to this issue. Yet media are rife with news of adulteration and subsequent drives by the government inspectors. All these are made more difficult by the lack of widespread access to scientific tests for accuracy in determining the level of adulteration or other contamination in the food.

A certain level of chemical fertilizer and pesticide use is inevitable in the field. We cannot feed 160 million people on organic production alone. Chemical fertilizer, pesticides & certain human-grade preservatives on their own are not dangerous – in the right doses. And there in lies the crux of the matter – adequate and safe use of chemicals in the production process and monitoring the value chain against contamination and adulteration.

At the same time, a Canadian study indicates that 40 to 60% of food-borne illness are acquired in a home setting. In the rural setting of Bangladesh and with lack of adequate awareness on the importance of hygiene in food preparation, this could be significantly higher. Therefore, large-scale assumption and panic created from assumption that outbreaks of illness are created by adulterated or contaminated food should also be avoided. 

What is needed to tackle the issue of food safety is knowledge, commitment and awareness of the public, private and regulatory actors. Awareness of importance in hygienic preparation of food, greater information accessibility, self-regulation and reporting by the private sector and a functioning authority on Food Safety could start to tackle this threat to public health in a holistic manner.

For more information, you can check out the following website: http://www.bdfoodsafety.org/

Posted on July 1, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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