Safe, quality food remains a far cry

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 24 Aug 2017, 01:17:50
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Safe, quality food remains a far cry

Ministers agree at int'l meet that sees BD's potential overseas food mkt
FE Report


Food safety remains a major challenge facing Bangladesh, said speakers at an international conference in Dhaka Wednesday.   

At the inaugural function of the meet on the day, they appreciated that the country attained food security for its people, though safety remained a concern.

Ensuring food safety can actually boost Bangladesh's overseas market for processed foods, the speakers also pointed out at the two-day Food Safety Conference.

Two government ministers in the inaugural session agreed on this point, and spoke of measures and visions being espoused by the authorities in this field.      

"Although we are now a role model for ensuring food security among the South Asian countries, questions still remain about the safety and quality of that food," said Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu while speaking at the opening ceremony.

"Ensuring safe food for everyone means maintaining adequate quality control at every stage of food processing, starting from food production to food consumption," he added.

Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) have organised the event along with Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) under the Ministry of Food and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) of the Ministry of Industries.

The industries minister observed that it was not possible to ensure safe and quality food through legal enforcement alone. "We need the cooperation of all those involved in the whole process, including food production, processing, transportation, marketing and preservation."

He also envisioned that Bangladesh would be able to export US$1.0 billion worth of processed food by the year 2021 if the local exporters could continue the current growth momentum.

"While the country shipped only US$27 million worth of processed food back in 2008-09, this amount rose to US$ 224 million in 2014-15," he informed the conference.

"At the same time, there is a big domestic market for processed food, which is driving the growth in agriculture and food-processing industry in Bangladesh," the industries minister said.

As such, it is possible to earn US$1.0 billion from processed foods by the year 2021 by maintaining this growth momentum.  

The minister, in his speech, also called for tapping the growing global market for halal food.

"The demand for Halal food is currently growing at a rate of 10.8 per cent every year," Mr Amu pointed out.

While the size of Halal food industry worldwide was US$ 795 billion back in 2014, it would grow to US$ 3.7 trillion by 2019, he told his audience in elaborating on the food-market arithmetic.

"Such robust growth gives us a huge potential market to tap," the industries minister said on the urgency of transition from consumption-to export-agricultural economy.

Speaking on the occasion, Food Minister Md. Qamrul Islam said in many developed countries, even the food sold by the street vendors tends to be safe.

"We need to achieve that kind of safety level for our food industry," he added.

Secretary of the Ministry of Food Md. Kaikobad Hossain in his speech said there are provisions for checking the quality of food items from time to time at the laboratory of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority to ensure safety and quality of food products in the country.

Speaking on the occasion, Chairman of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) Mohammad Mahfuzul Hoque said the government recently formulated a five-year strategy for ensuring food safety.

One of the goals under that strategy is to bring those who are involved with the issues of food security under the relevant compliances.

President of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nihad Kabir told the meet that there should be specific targets for enhancing the capacity of the organisations as far as food safety is concerned.

Director-General of Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) Md. Saiful Hasib, President of the Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Ms. Rupali Chowdhury and National Team Leader of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) A.K.M. Nurul Afsar also spoke during the inaugural session.

Later, during a session on 'Global Food Safety Challenges', speakers noted that ensuring food safety can boost Bangladesh's export potential in terms of food processing.

Former Chairman of Codex Alimentarius Commission Sanjay Dave in his presentation called for upgrading the food-testing laboratories and making effective regulations concerning food imports, food recall, food fortification, additives, heavy metals, pesticides, vet, drugs etc.

He also emphasized harmonizing the local relevant standards with those set by the Codex Alimentarius of FAO and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"In today's world, policymakers should think globally and act globally for ensuring food safety," Carmen Savelli of the World Health Organisation told the session, presided over by President of Bangladesh Agro-Processors Association Fakhrul Islam Munshi.

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