Food safety under scrutiny

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 23 Aug 2017, 20:31:46
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EDITORIAL

Food safety under scrutiny

Food safety has never become a top agenda for discussion in this part of the world because the focus was mainly on availability of adequate foods. It has followed the usual course of ensuring quantity first and then taking the issue of quality. Under underdeveloped conditions, this is bound to happen. Unfortunately, there is still misconception about foods. Some have the notion that enough staple constitutes dietary requirements. But this misconception is changing for the better among a segment of people who have been able to climb up the social ladder. The most spectacular change has come in the area of agricultural diversification mostly on consideration for better economic return. Today farmers cultivate a large variety of crops including vegetables, fruits - some of them quite exotic - on a commercial basis in order to augment their income. Fish farming has also to its credit record production of this fine source of protein. 

Now mass production of any item has its downside unless the ways and means of production are brought under strict monitoring and supervision. Use of fertiliser and pesticide needs to be ensured under controlled environment. This has not happened for many years. Only lately, experts in agriculture have emphasised the need for application of the right amount of agricultural inputs. New researches have also identified harmful effects of fertiliser and pesticide, the residues of which enter into the food chain to put human health at great risk. Fish farming and livestock are heavily dependent on growth hormone and artificial chemical feeding. These are unattended areas and should immediately be brought under supervision. Indiscriminate use of chemical feeds for growth of fish and livestock unfolds a spectre of disaster in the food sector. 

Feeding the mass population is a daunting challenge. So, various methods from genetic modification to breeding selection have been devised in order to meet the increasing need for foods. But there is a limit to tinker with Nature. Not many are vocal about the harmful effects of foods developed through genetic engineering and other application. These issues are  not included in the agenda of the two-day Food Safety Conference 2017 which concludes today. But there is a need for taking up such issues in the interest of the future generation. Agriculture scientists have achieved enough by this time but it is time all the negative sides were examined in order to declare crops developed by them fully safe.

Then comes the issue of food adulteration at the traders' level. There are artificially ripened fruits, chemically treated fish and vegetables galore. Best practices are needed for ensuring quality of such items. Instead, those are deliberately contaminated by substances nutritionists and physicians do not recommend. The much maligned formalin, it has been lately claimed, is not applied to give longer duration of freshness to fish or shelf life to vegetables and fruits. If this is so, why was there so much brouhaha over formalin use this long? Formalin does indeed protect bodies of any animal from becoming rotten. Of course, a social campaign may raise the level of awareness but mending ways by dishonest traders should be the prime task.  

 
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Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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