The divisional workshop on Implementation of Safe Food Act 2013 and assignment of duties for complete food system was organized on 17 June, 2015 at Deputy Commissioner’s Conference hall, Barisal. The event was organized by UBINIG on behalf of Bangladesh Food Safety Network (BFSN) under the aegis of Food and Agriculture Organization- Food Safety Project (FAO-FSP). Barisal Mahila Kallayn Sangstha (BMKS) cooperated for organizing the event. Fifty five participants including representatives from Barisal Divisional Administration, Barisal District Administration, Department of Divisional Health and Family Welfare, Department of Agriculture Extension, Department of District Information, City Corporation, Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI), Consumer organizations, Women organizations, NGOs, Lawyers, journalists and farmers attended the workshop.
Muhammad Gaus, Divisional Commissioner, Barisal division was the chief guest. Md Shahidul Alam, Deputy Commissioner, Barisal, Dr. Rokeya Khanam, National Advisor, Food and Agriculture Organization -Food Safety Project and Dr. Muhammad Rezaul Amin, Assistant Director, Department of divisional health and family welfare, Barisal were special guests. Dr. M.A Sobhan. Consultant, UBINIG chaired the workshop. Shima Das Shimu, Director, UBINIG moderated the event.
Jahangir Alam Jony, Director, UBINIG presented the keynote speech on “Implementation of Safe Food Act 2013 and our responsibilities”. He highlighted the BFSN activities, Food Safety Act 2013, Management of Advisory Council of Food Safety Act, penalty for offences in relation to Safe Food Act, Safe Food Authority and Safe Food Laws for implementation of safe food in Bangladesh.
Muhammad Gaus, Divisional Commissioner, Barisal division said, the education and awareness of safe food is equally important like that of the enactment of the law. There have been many laws and regulations for ensuring safe food for the people. There is legal provision for safe food, in the Penal Code 1860, Special Power Act 1974 and many other laws on food safety. Public education is very important for food safety. Ensuring safe food in Bangladesh is prime issue now. Food is available in abundance today. But food safety yet to be ensured. This has happened mainly because of lack of perception of food safety. There is need of awareness and education on food, even at the policy level. We are obliged to ensure food for the people in all levels of our society. I appreciate the UBINIG, BFSN and FAO for organizing this workshop in Barisal. I wish success of the workshop.
Md. Shahidul Alam, Deputy Commissioner, Barisal shared that food safety is a very important issue for the district administration and other concerned departments of the government. In general we do not give much attention to food like all other aspects of our life. We care very much for our cosmetics, dress, shelter, transport and other aspects. But we remain very much indifferent about what we eat. We have to be careful about our food we take. We must take quality food. We need to be more concerned and careful about the packet food. We must check date of expiry of the packet food. We need to be conscious about the standard and quality of life saving medicine as well. I feel the food safety issue should be a prime concern of the government departments. I appreciate the organizer for holding the workshop in Barisal.
Dr. Rokeya Khanam, National advisor, Food and Agriculture Organization-Food Safety Project presented that management of food safety is a national issue. It is an important issue but it is a complex issue. Nine ministries of the government, directly or indirectly involved with the food safety issue. There are two aspects in relation to food safety – adulteration and contamination. Adulteration is a process of adding something with food for increasing the volume or making it very attractive. Contamination takes place with the process of producing food. But both are very dangerous for food safety. There is need of public awareness for both the producers and the consumers about food safety. The producer should plan their production in a system so that the food is produced in a safe environment. The process of production, packaging, transporting and serving food should ensure that food is offered safe. The Food Safety Act 2013 was implemented from first of February 2015. We in Food Safety Project FAO have been implementing different activities with BFSN for ensuring safe food for the people. The major activities that we have so far implemented include: divisional workshop, safe food campaign and education at school level, media awareness on safe food, observation of Global Hand Washing Day and safe food festival. The participation of the civil administration, Department of health, Department of Agriculture Extension, City Corporation, Department of information, lawyers, journalist and farmers will help implementation of the food safety act 2013.
Dr. Md. Rezaul Amin, Assistant Director, Department of Health, Barisal said, we pay little attention on account of our food. The department of health, food, agriculture and other related disciplines are linked with our food safety. We should address our food safety issue in a holistic approach. Only enactment of law will not solve the food safety problem. In this regard public awareness both at producer and consumer level is equally important. However advocacy and awareness in respect of health and related aspects should be considered on priority. In production sector the farmers and all other relevant stakeholders should be made aware in respect of safe food. The corruption is a serious issue in food sector. Formalin is mixed with ice for preserving fish. The consumer should be aware about different process of food adulteration and contamination. We must not eat questionable food. We must see whether it is hygienic and healthy. Education is very important for health and hygiene. For example, in some cases plates are washed in poluted pond water and food is taken in such plates. There is every chance of food contamination from the plate washed in such water. We have to have the habit of washing our hands before we take food. We need to create public awareness about the safe art of taking food. In the Ramadan time varieties of food are prepared and kept open in the vans for selling. These foods are spoilt by dust carried with wind and flies. Moreover, most of the items are cooked with burnt oil. These are not safe. The food cooked with burnt oil become carcinogenic. The producers should think that the items safe for them is also safe for the consumers. All foods are not safe for everybody. For example sweets are not safe for diabetic patients but it is good food for others. In Ramadan time we are used to take lot of fried items in iftar. Such dry foods are not very healthy for a fasting person.
Ramendranath Barai, Deputy Director, Department of Agriculture Extension said, we advise the farmers to practice integrated pest management for crop production. The farmers are now used to make compost and vermi compost for improvement of soil fertility. There are still some items of vegetables like ash gourd, arum, water gourd, amaranth, etc are raised without any application of pesticide. Some insects like aphid can be controled by spraying water mixed with detergent.
Jakir Hossain, District Information Officer, Barisal shared in his speech that we need to ensure safe food at domestic, field and market levels. Food produced in unsafe environment will be problem for health. There is need for ensuring cleanliness in food production from field to table. We need to wash our hands properly for handling and taking food. It is better to remain hungry than to eat adulterated food. There should be arrangement for testing food in the market so that the consumers are able to get safe food. Awareness should be created among the traders about the adverse impact of adulterants on human health.
Md Jahangir Molla, Food and Sanitary Inspector, City Corporation, Barisal said, food safety act 2013 has been implemented from 1st February 2015 but the food policy has not yet been made. This should be framed immediately. It is good news that the food safety authority has been established recently. There is gap in the implementation of the food safety act in terms of coordination between the field level officers and the headquarters. It will be very useful to develop better coordination between field office and headquarters,
Advocate Hiron Kimar Das expressed , I do not like to die eating poisonous food rather to remain hungry. Food should be produced in poison free environment. The agriculture extension officers and the farmers should be offered training on the art and science of producing safe food.
Kawsar Parveen, Director, BMKS shared that, side by side with the enactment of food safety law moral education should be offered to the producers and farmers for producing and offering safe food for others. We should resist food adulteration in all levels. The consumers are now aware. They should be organized to resist the entry of adulterated food in the market.
Ranjit Datta, Secretary, CAB, Barisal said, committee should be formed at the upazila level for implementation of the food safety act. The implementation of the law should be strict. There should be no interference from upper hand in course of implementation of the law for controlling food adulteration. Provide incentive to the ideal farmers those who will be producing safe food. Sales outlet for consumers should be established at the upazila level for supplying safe food.
The recommendations from the workshop included:
1. Robust mechanism, structures and institutional arrangements are required immediately for implementing food safety act 2013.
2. Consumer education and providing consumers with a simple guideline to easily recognize different items of safe food
3. Food safety should be taken up as a prelude to ensuring adequate nitration for the people
4. Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and conservation agriculture need enforcement for sustaining productivity and at the same time ensuing safe food for the people
5. Taking example of the Nayakrishi (new agriculture) principle with local knowledge through production of indigenous seed, low cost production practices of farming including livestock, poultry and fishery should be prioritized in order for improving safety of agricultural production.
6. Good hygienic practices such as washing hands with soap after excreting and before taking food can be extended among the people through advocacy campaign and education.
7. All levels of the food supply chain from the farmers to manufacturers and retailers should be linked to work together to effectively enforce the food safety act.
8. Individual market based committee should be formed for implementation of the food safety act.
9. Farmers should be motivated for production of safe food.
10. People’s representatives in different tyres should be involved for implementation of food safety act.
11. Preventive approach should be prioritized against control of food adulteration and contamination.
12. Advocacy campaign for safe food should be organized in rural and urban areas covering towns, upazila, district, division and national levels.
13. Food producers, merchants, wholesalers and retailers should be offered training on food safety aspects.
14. Farmers should be offered training for safe production of crops, fish, poultry and livestock at villages, union and upazila levels.
15. Accountability and transparency coupled with trained manpower and good infrastructure will ensure safe food for the people of Bangladesh.
Dr. M.A. Sobhan, Consultant, UBINIG shared in his concluding speech that, the workshop on the implementation of safe food and our responsibilities was attended and addressed by stakeholders including divisional commissioner, deputy commissioner, national advisor of FAO food safety project, representatives of the DAE, Department of health, Sanitary inspector, NGOs, farmers and other members of society. The approaches for implementation of the safe food act were presented by representative from UBINIG and FAO-FSP. The representatives from the respective disciplines offered their suggestions for smooth implementation of the food safety act. It was mentioned that food safety issues have been covered in laws starting from Penal Code 1860, Special Powers Act 1974 and such other 14 laws. Only the enactment of law is not enough to ensure food safety. There is need of public awareness and participation of both the producer and consumer for safe food. It is pleasing to observe that there is a positive trend among the producers in favor of supplying safe food in the market. On behalf of UBINIG and FAO-FSP, I appreciate the distinguished participants for their precious contribution in this workshop. With these few words I conclude the workshop.