Food Safety in Bangladesh: Making the Invisible Visible

- Md. Mahboob Sobhani

Food safety grunge rubber stamp on white, vector illustration

Published On - June 5, 2018 [Vol. 8, Jan - Jun, 2018]

Food safety refers to addressing `all those hazards, whether chronic or acute, that may make food injurious to the health of the consumer’. In Bangladesh acute food safety hazard is a very common phenomenon. Food adulteration, microbes contamination; residue of insecticide & pesticide, anti-biotic and growth hormone in poultry; presence of harmful additives, colours, toxic preservatives(DDT, PCBs Oil, Formalin and so on), heavy metals etc. in food are the common perils of food safety in Bangladesh. These problems are addressed by notable local and international scholars and food safety practitioners. They elaborated that food safety is a prerequisite to food security and solving one can solve the other. From Bangladeshi context the big threat to food safety is food adulteration. Besides present dichotomy of standards/parameters in defining foods, over lapping of laws in food sector, limited food testing facility, strewn institutional structure for food management, absence of food safety in rural area, etc. make the food governance a complex issue to tackle. These observable facts all together make highly negative impact on public health, economy and society as a whole.


The measures taken against food safety hazards are not enough. Regulation and policy implementation mechanisms themselves are faulty. At times prosecuting authority seems to be partisan because application of law involves political whim, where many of the food business operators are politically affiliated. Thus the major findings of this research are that food safety situation in Bangladesh is vulnerable and efforts to combat these curses are not enough.

To ensure food safety, Bangladesh needs proper implementation of the Food Safety Act, 2013 with certain modification. A new and comprehensive set of standards and parameters should be in place for aged Pure Food Rules, 1967. Government along with other stakeholders must come up in this war of subsistence for the citizens of Bangladesh. It is the first and foremost responsibility of the state to ensure an uninterrupted supply of safe food to all people, at all time. Needless to mention that unsafe food is worse than no food. Therefore ensuring food safety will bring healthiness, happiness and prosperity in Bangladesh.


1.1 Introduction:

Food as sustenance is essential for life and that food needs always to be safe. Safe, nutritious, affordable food is a global human right. Food is a composite matrix which is prone to the presence of potential hazards, which makes the assurance of food safety a challenging task (Zilin & Malik, 2012).[1] Food Safety, an important global public health issue to ensure sound health, refers to addressing “all those hazards, whether chronic or acute, that may make food injurious to the health of the consumer”(FAO, 2003)[2]. Threats to food safety are age-old problems which have many facets and affect people at all strata. Sources of hazards associated with food are numerous, for example, microbial infectious agents, physical contaminants and the presence of potentially toxic chemicals.

Acute food safety hazard is a curse in Bangladesh. The alarming phenomenon of various potential threats in the food chain became an issue with the dawn of this century. Food adulteration; contamination; residue of insecticide & pesticide, anti-biotic and growth hormone in highly consumed poultry; presence of harmful additives, toxic preservatives(DDT, PCBs Oil, Formalin and so on), heavy metals etc. are the common peril to food safety in Bangladesh. Regrettably, the legal apparatus seems to be not enough in combating food safety risks.

1.2 Food Safety: Etymology, Typology, Profile & Other Issues-

Definition of Food: From the common parlance any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.[3]

Biological Definition of Food: Biologically, food can be defined as `edible or potable substance (usually of animal or plant origin), consisting of nourishing and nutritive components such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, essential mineral and vitamins, which (when ingested and assimilated through digestion) sustains life, generates energy, and provides growth, maintenance, and health of the body.[4]

Legal Definition of Food: Food is also defined under the law of the land, basing on, or concerned with and varied to the consumer’s food habit, custom, culture etc. For instance alcoholic liquor or beverages are permitted as drinks in many countries, but also prohibited in many countries too. In Bangladesh mustard oil is used as edible oil, but in the west it is manufactured for external use only not as food. Thus, definition of food varies from country to country.

From Bangladeshi perspective, legal definition of food is only given in section 2(3) of the Food Safety Act, 2013[5]. The text of the law is as follows-

`“food” means any edible substance, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, which are edible by chewing, sucking or licking (such as food grains, pulses, fish, meat, milk, eggs, edible oil, fruits, vegetables, etc.) or by drinking (such as-normal water, aerated water, carbonated water, energy drink, etc.) and also includes such other ingredient or raw material that is used during food production and food process as a nutrient for human survival, and for enhancing nutrition and protecting health;

The provision further explains that:

(a) “food” includes all colouring or flavouring matters, spices, additives, preservatives, antioxidants, which are not components of principal food but are used for the purposes of manufacturing, preservation or production thereof;

(b) “food” includes such other substances that are declared as food, for the purpose of this Act, by the Government by notification in the official Gazette from time to time: but does not include drugs or herbal medicine, narcotics and cosmetics.’

Again, under section 2(17) of the Food Safety Act, 2013`Safe Food’ is defined as `a food that is pure and hygienic for public health according to its intended use and utility’.

Now, when safe food is desirable, then it is important to know when the food is also not safe. These threats to food safety are elaborated from section 23 to 42 of the Food Safety Act, 2013.[6]

1. Toxic or Poisonous Food(Section 23): Use or inclusion of any article in the food like any chemical ingredient or substance (such as: calcium carbide, formalin, sodium cyclamate), insecticides or pesticides (such as: DDT, PCB oil, etc.), or intoxicated food colour of flavouring matter, whether attractive or not, or any other intoxicated additives or processing aids, which may cause injury or toxicity to human health.

2. Heavy Metal and Radio-activation Tainted Food(Section 24): Usage or inclusion any radioactive or irradiated matter or naturally of otherwise occurring similar matter or heavy metal in violation of maximum acceptable limit prescribed by regulations[7] in any article of food or food ingredient.

3. Adulterated Food(Sectiom25): `Food adulteration’ can be simply defined- as an act of intentional debasing the quality of food offered for sale either by the admixture or substitution of inferior substances or by the removal of some valuable ingredient. As per section 2(29) of the Act “adulterated food” means a food or any part thereof –

(a) which is, with a view to making it coloured, flavoured, preserved, processed or attractive, mixed with such amount of ingredients that is harmful to public health and is prohibited in law; or

(b) which is, with a view to making it coloured, coated or stained, mixed excessively with such amount of ingredients that impairs the food and diminishes the food value or nutritive qualities of such food; or

 (c) from which any of the normal constituents has been wholly or in part abstracted, and different types of ingredients, comparatively cheap in value, has been mixed with it to readily increase its weight or quantity or to make it attractive so as to render it injurious to money or health of the food consumers;

Production or import, process, store, supply or sell of any adulterated article of food or food ingredient are prohibited under section 25 of the Act.

4. Sub-standard Food ( Section 26): Any article of food or food ingredient which is Sub-standard for human consumption in comparison with the standard prescribed by regulations i.e. the standards set by the `Pure Food Rules, 1967’,  `Wrapped Food Labeling Regulations, 2017(†gvoKve× Lv`¨ †j‡ewjs cÖweavbgvjv, 2017)’ published on May 2017 and `Food Safety (Contaminants, Toxins and Harmful Residues) Regulations, 2017[wbivc` Lv`¨ (ivmvqwbK `~lK, Uw·b I ÿwZKi Aewkóvsk) cÖweavbgvjv, 2017]’ published on July 2017.

5. Food with additives or processing aids(Section 27): Usage or inclusion of in any additive or processing aid in violation of maximum acceptable limit prescribed by regulations[8] in any article of food or food ingredient.

6. Expired Food(Section 29): Any article of food or food ingredient of which the date of is expired.

7. Food with Residue of Growth Hormone, Anti-Biotic, Pesticide, Insecticide, Drugs etc.(Section 30): Usage or inclusion in any article of food or food ingredient any insecticide or pesticide residue, veterinary or aquaculture drug residue, hormone, antibiotic or growth promoters residue, solvent residue, active ingredients of drugs, microbes or parasites in excess to the maximum residue limit prescribed by regulations[9] or by any other law.

8. Genetically Modified, Organic and Novel Food(Section 31):

(a) “proprietary food” or “novel food” means any food for which no standards is yet specified but is not unsafe and which does not contain any substance or matter prohibited by regulations;

(b) “food for special dietary uses”, “functional food”, “nutraceutical food” or “health supplement” means any food prepared in compliance with the special formula and maintained the qualities prescribed by regulations to meet the necessity of special dietary for any special or substantial physical condition or any special diseases or illness;

(c) “organic food” means any food produced in accordance with specified organic production process; and

(d) “genetically modified or engineered food” means any article of food or food ingredient composed of or containing genetically modified or engineered organisms obtained through modern biotechnology, or produced from but not containing genetically modified or engineered organisms obtained through modern biotechnology.

9. Food without Label and Packet(Section 32 A,B,C,D): Any food or food ingredient without BSTI seal or required label.

10. Fake/Misbranded Food (Section 37): Any food or food ingredient which is fake or misbranded under Copy Right Act, 2009

Food Safety and Food Security:

From the general understanding food safety refers to the situation when available food is safe for consumption in all aspect. Food is safe when it is free from all or any hazards like microbial infectious agents, physical contaminants and the presence of potentially toxic chemicals which are injurious to the health of the consumer (FAO,2003). Food safety involves the activities relating to food production, import, processing, stock piling, supply, marketing and sales. Again, food, to be safe, only considering it’s latent or qualitative value is not sufficient; it also needs to be legally permitted meeting all forensic requirements of a particular country.

Food safety is an inclusive aspect of food security. As defined in the World Food Summit-1996

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

According to this definition the Bangladesh National Food Policy, 2006[10] categorized food security as:

`Enhanced food availability, increased food access by the food insecure people, and adequate supply of safe and nutritious food. Thus, food safety is an all-encompassing aspect of food security.’

It is not clear that food security and food safety are contradictory. But, solving one can solve the other. Increasing the food supply by taking advantage of all of the technologies available does not mean that state need to relax regulatory standards that are used to improve food safety. Food insecurity is often the result of insufficient production, poor distribution and economic constraints(David Zilberman, 2015).[11]

For better understanding, association in between food safety and food security is shown in the following table:            Table 01: Food Safety vs. Food Security

Food SafetyFood Security
"Food safety” is an umbrella term that encompasses many facets of handling, preparation and storage of food to prevent illness and injury to it’s consumers. It encompasses safety from `Farm to Fork’ ensuring-
 safe sources of all foods,
 freedom from avoidable chemical and microbial contamination,
 continuing the appropriate 'cold-chain' where needed, protection from insects, rodents, cross-contamination, safe storage, transportation, labelling,
 preparation, processing, cooking, correct temperatures post-heating, food-handler safety, and service.
"Food security” exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.” (FAO 2003).
"Food security" suggests a "secure supply" of food. i.e.
 the adequacy of food to society,
 the equitable distribution,
 confirmed supply,
 fair access,
 sustained sources, etc.
Deals with the `quality’ of food and it’s safety measures.Deals with a. `physical availability of food’, b. `economic access to food’, c. `food utilization’ and d. `stability of the other three dimensions over time’ to the consumers.
Food safety is a component of food security.To a lesser extent, food security does acknowledge the importance of food safety as well.
It is a part of formulation of substantive and procedural laws. i.e. Food Safety Act, 2013 in BangladeshIt is a part of national policy formulation. i.e. Bangladesh National Food Policy, 2006 .
  • Objectives of the Study:

This research comprises of an organizational part and an analysis part. This study is proposed to identify the nature and causes of hazards in food safety and the measures taken to address the adverse effects of food safety hazards on the consumers of Bangladesh. More specifically, the study will focus on:

1. to understand the nature and various profile of the problems with food safety in Bangladesh;

2. to review the existing policy, rules and regulations which deal with various food safety issues;

3. to critically investigate the loopholes and shortcomings of the present day measures;

4. to recommend some viable implications to address this serious problem.

1.4 Justification of the Study:

The people of Bangladesh are living on unsafe food. Bangladesh is over burdened with laws(as many as 23 Acts, Rules, Ordinances)[14] for ensuring safety and security of food but irony is that food is most unsafe in Bangladesh[15]. Here food safety situation is alarming due to food adulteration, use of toxins, pesticide residues in vegetables and grains, microbiological contamination in food, veterinary drug residues and presence of heavy metals in food.

Unfortunately, no authentic research or study has been undertaken on theory, practice and present context of food safety scenario in Bangladesh. No conclusive research has been carried out to probe into the challenges and search for probable solutions to face the threats of food safety. The researcher being the Presiding Judge(Special Metropolitan Magistrate) of the Pure Food Court of Dhaka Metropolitan city feels the urge of studying on the core of the subject to have a better understanding on it and also to bring efficient and ingenious techniques to deal with it. With firsthand experience of the researcher in dealing(cognizance taking, trial and disposal) of many criminal cases specially on food safety issues, this research will be a endeavor to add some new explanation, ideas and resolution on food safety in Bangladesh. This study will contribute to the present stock of knowledge on pivotal issues of food safety and the knowledge seekers, researchers, policy makers, etc. will be encouraged to go for a further study on the very topic.


The limitations of the study are as follows:

1. Though there are concerns regarding the food safety issues, but there are absolutely no prolific thesis, pro-academic discussion or in depth study/research based on core food safety issues on Bangladesh perspective. Thus, resource constrains or non availability of authentic ideas, data and statistics on the topic restricted him within the common periphery;

2. The researcher has to maintain a given time frame to complete the study. an in depth study on the subject. Therefore, time constraint in completion of the research limits the researcher to be restricted within the narrow boundary of the subject matter.

1.6 Methodology:

Food safety is a sensitive issue that encumbrances having a better understanding on the relevant issues and also requires some policy formulation and implications of law to safeguard it. Hence, in this research, food safety is explained with theoretical aspect; is dealt with a problem when attracts hazards in various forms, and is also discussed with legal executions or imperatives relating to ensure food safety.

Therefore the researcher has to go through the available secondary data on various journals, books, reports, articles, paper publications, clippings, legal documents, etc. on print and electronic sources.

For the study, the researcher goes through a very good amount of secondary data to show the trend of various food safety threats, the dreadful effect on the consumers, and the available legal mechanism for preventive and punitive actions. Researcher has used available survey reports, study reports and census reports. For an example, Demographic and Health Survey 2014 conducted by National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT), annual report of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority(BSFA), Registers and Court Diaries of Pure Food Court which are very useful source of information and much relevant to the study.

To see the punitive effect of various legislations the researcher has frequently visited the Prosecuting Authority and the Chief Health Officer’s Office of Dhaka South City Corporation and Dhaka North City Corporation to collect data on collection on food samples, number of convicts, etc.

The researcher uses in-depth interviews and content analysis of available survey and census reports to get quantitative information. For qualitative information, researcher interviews people, does focus group and stakeholder’s discussions, and desk research of available literature.

1.7 Research Statement:

This research has the following research statement-

`The Food safety scenario in Bangladesh is critical and the steps taken in combating the food safety hazards are not effective.’



2.1 Reviews on Development of the Idea of Food Safety in Bangladesh:

Bangladesh is a case of success at present as far as producing food is concern, particularly rice, the staple food. For the past several years, a main focus had been on food security: providing the nation’s required food supply- how to meet the growing need to feed the nation’s ever-increasing population? Can it be done safely and sustainably?

In 1972, demand for food was 11 ml MT for 70 million people, with deficiency of 3 ml MT. In 2012, demand of food for 160 ml people was 33 ml MT and deficiency was 1 ml MT.  Finally in 2015, Bangladesh became self sufficient in Food.(Haque, 2017)[16] But, `whether food is safe in Bangladesh?’ remains a big question.[17] Food safety hazards remain burning issues here.  Regulators, policy planners, and political leadership in charge of ensuring food safety governance, failed the citizens in having access to safe food. Until the countrymen have safe and pure food in their plates, food security will remain a far cry, no matter how much is produced, how efficiently is marketed, how wonderfully is distributed.

Nonetheless, looking back to the path it is understood that the goal of the first National Food Policy, 1988, was to achieve food security[18] for all people by increasing food production and attaining self-sufficiency of food. However, many important aspects of food security i.e. safe and nutrient food, etc. remained unattended in that food policy of 1988 which was basically based on availability of food grain alone.

In 1994 Bangladesh became a signatory of GATT[19] Uruguay Round Agreement at which, among other issues, agricultural trade liberalizations was agreed. Following the recommendation of the Bangladesh Development Forum, the process of consolidating the country’s food security programme at a larger scale was started in 2000 through a task force document entitled “A Comprehensive Food Security Policy for Bangladesh”[20].

In 1996 World Food Summit food security was popularized `as access by all people at all times to the safe and nutrient food needed for an active and healthy life’[21]. This provision has reflected in all the development and action plans of the Government.[22]

Finally, the National Food Policy, 2006(NFP)[23] was adopted by Ministry of Food and Disaster Management on 14 August, 2006 setting it’s first objective: to ensure adequate and stable supply of safe and nutritious food. As per Government’s Allocation of Business, it is the duty of the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management to establish a dependable food security system for the nation. National Food Policy Plan of Action(2008-2015) was adopted on 5 August 2008 following the NFP.

Apart from the policies, obviously laws were there specially to ensure safe food, maintenance of proper hygiene and sanitary practices regarding food manufacture, supply, preparation and distribution which are crucial public health concerns. Those laws are inter alia-

  1. Pure Food Ordinance, 1959(Repealed on 2015)
  2. Pure Food Rules, 1967

2.2 Review on the Governance & Legal Framework of Food Safety in Bangladesh:

2.1.1 International Commitments of Bangladesh:

`Right to Food’ is an economic, social and cultural right. Being signatory and ratifying various international instruments, Bangladesh guarantees `Purity and safety in Food’. Such important international documents are as follows:

  1. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),1948
  2. the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),1966

iii. the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),1989 and

  1. the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1990, etc.

2.1.2 Constitutional Mandate:

Right to food is ensured under the `Provision of basic necessities’ of the Constitution of People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Article 15 specifies that `it shall be a fundamental responsibility of the State to attain, … a constant increase of productive forces and a steady improvement … with a view to securing to its citizens-(a) the provision of the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care.’

Furthermore, Article 18(1) of the constitution narrates that `the state shall raise the level of nutrition and improve public health as its primary duties’. Both the articles imply food safety requirements for the citizens of the state. But both of these articles belongs to Part-II of our constitution i.e. the fundamental principles of state policy, making them judicially unenforceable[24].  The judiciary of our country, however, has often enforced the rights availed in the Part-II of our constitution by bringing them under the interpretation of article-32, which provides for right to life , a fundamental right guaranteed in the constitution. A shining example of such instance is Dr Mohiuddin Farooque v Bangladesh and others[25], popularly known as Radioactive Milk Powder case. In this case, it was held by Kazi Ebadul Hoque J. that,

“No one has any right to endanger the life of the people which includes their health and normal longevity of an ordinary healthy person by marketing in the country any food item injurious to the health of the people.”[26]

Thus the concept of food safety has not been overlooked in our constitution and in the developing legal paradigm ensuring people’s right.

2.1.3 Basic Laws on Food Safety:

It is widely known that Bangladesh is over burdened with laws on various issues relating to safe food. There are exactly 23(twenty-three) Acts, Rules, Ordinances and Regulations in operation which pay concern to a number of food safety issues in Bangladesh. In the present context, following one Act and one Rules of the parliament and three Regulations opted by the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority(BFSA) mainly focus on food safety hazards. These are as follows:

  1. Food Safety Act, 2013(Act 43 of 2013);
  1. Pure Food Rules, 1967 adopted in 28 September 1967;
  2. নিরাপদ খাদ্য(খাদ্য জব্দকরণ ও প্রশাসনিক ব্যবস্থা গ্রহণ পদ্ধতি)বিধিমালা,২০১৪[Food Safety(Food Sample Seizure and Administrative Action Procedure) Rules, 2014];

4.      মোড়ক-আবদ্ধ খাদ্য লেবেলিং প্রবিধানমালা,২০১৭(Wrapped-Food Labeling Regulations, 2017);5.      নিরাপদ খাদ্য(রাসায়নিক দূষক, টক্সিন ও ক্ষতিকর অবশিষ্টাংশ)বিধিমালা,২০১৭[Food Safety (Contaminants, Toxins and Harmful Residues) Regulations, 2017].

All of the aforesaid laws and regulations are reviewed elaborately for the purpose of the study. Furthermore, the following laws of the land and relevant contemporary literatures are reviewed to understand frontiers of knowledge in the field.

  1. The Penal Code, 1860,
  1. The Control of Essential Commodities Act, 1956,
  2. The Food (Special Courts) Act, 1956,
  3. The Cantonments Pure Food Act, 1966,
  4. The Pesticide Ordinance, 1971,
  5. The Special Power Act 1974,
  6. The Fish and Fish Products (Inspection and Control), Ordinance, 1983,
  7. The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution Ordinance, 1985,
  8. The Iodine Deficiency Disorders Prevention Act, 1989,
  9. The Consumers Rights Protection Act 2009,
  10. The Local Government (City Corporation) Act 2009,
  11. The Local Government (Paurashava) Act, 2009,

18.  The Fisheries and Fodder Act, 2010

  1. The Animal Slaughter and Meat Quality Control Act, 2011
  2. The Water Act, 2013,

21.  The Breast-milk substitutes, child foods, commercially-manufactured infant foods and its use tools (Marketing Control) Act, 2013

  1. The Enrichment of Vitamin `A’ in Edible Oil Act, 2013.
  2. The Formalin Control Act, 2015

Earlier the Pure Food Ordinance, 1959 (East Pakistan Ordinance No. LXVIII of 1959) and Pure Food Rules,1967 were used to provide basic framework and legislation on food safety in Bangladesh that included scope, definitions, administration and enforcement guidelines etc. regarding any issue of safe food.

The Bangladesh National Parliament has passed the Food Safety Act, 2013 on October 10, 2013 which has came into effect on 1st February 2015 to fight against threats to food safety and to protect public health after repealing and the outdated Pure Food Ordinance, 1959.

This new Law makes provisions for the establishment of an efficient, effective, scientifically based Bangladesh Food Safety Authority(BFSA) and for regulating, through coordination, the activities relating to food production, import, processing, stockpiling, supplying, marketing and sales as well as to ensure the people’s right toward access to safe food through appropriate application of scientific processes and state of the art technology.[27] Food Safety Act, 2013 has the following salient features:

  • Covers and addresses almost all legal paradigms to ensure safe food to the consumers;
  • the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority(BFSA), has been set up on February 2, 2015, under this Act to fill up the commitment of establishing a Modern and Technological Food Safety System in Bangladesh to contribute to the government’s Vision 2021;
  • Two types of responsibilities defined for those who are engaged in any activity relating to Safe Food-
  1. General responsibilities i.e. individual responsibility,
  2. Specific responsibilities i.e. vicarious or command responsibility;
  • Both Civil and Criminal liabilities are defined for food manufacturers, producers and business operators. Offender can be punished in a criminal case and they may have to pay damages in a civil suit for doing any harm/loss to the consumers;
  • As such 23 types of various criminal offences covering production, manufacture, supply, importing, storing, selling, etc. of unsafe food by any person or by his agent are defined and made punishable in this Act[28];
  • Prohibitions on management of Safe Foods and various food hazards like heavy metal, pesticides, preservatives, formaldehyde, DDT etc. under this Act;
  • Provisions relating imposition of very higher punishment for any breach of these legal imperatives i.e. pecuniary fine- minimum taka 01 lakh to maximum taka 20 lakhs and/or rigorous imprisonment for the term minimum 01 year to maximum 05 years[29];
  • Out of 23 offences 13 are non-balilable and cognizable in the eye of law[30] and shall follow Summary-Trial[31] under Chapter XXII of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898;
  • Inclusion of provisions for separate administrative action against any person or body corporate etc. for any breach of the act;
  • Establishes 71 `Pure Food Courts’ all over the country for the jurisdiction of every District and each Metropolitan area to take cognizance and hold trial of cases arising out of this Act[32] and with the power to award any amount of fine prescribed under the Act[33];
  • Audio-visual evidence are admissible under this law. Any video footage, still photograph or audio record about, any occurrence of committing or preparation for committing or abetment for committing any offence or mischief stated in this Act shall be admissible as evidence at the trial of any case relating to such offence[34];
  • Any aggrieved person can file a complaint case in the `Pure Food Court’ and if the complainant successes in proving his case he will be awarded upto 25% of the fine imposed on the convict as incentive[35];
  • Scope for filing simultaneous Civil Suit claiming 5 times damages by any person who suffered loss[36], etc.

With such special features, ideally this legislation is seemed to be a strong safeguard for the food safety in Bangladesh. But practically, after observing it’s application for last two and half years the effectiveness of this law is not found beyond controversy. This issue will be elaborately discussed in the next chapter on findings.

Apart from reviewing on the forensic and legal compliance issues on food safety in Bangladesh, the researcher also makes make every effort to review on the following articles on the present context of food safety which are published in renowned journals. Again, it is to be worth mentioned that number of scholarly and pro-academic articles on the issue in available source is very few.

  1. M. Solaiman & A. N. Ali, `Extensive Food Adulteration in Bangladesh: A Violation of Fundamental Human Rights and the State’s Binding Obligations”(2014), 49 (5) Journal of Asian and African Studies, 617-629,[37] stated that – The right to life is inherently connected with the right to food which implies that any foodstuff be nutritious and safe. The government of Bangladesh bears binding obligations to protect these rights under both international human rights instruments and its national constitution. The violation of these rights has, nonetheless, been commonplace causing numerous human deaths and terminal diseases. The perpetrators have been adulterating foods, flouting laws with impunity and taking advantage of regulatory impotence and governmental lenience for decades. Laws exist in books, regulators subsist in theory, but consumers die without remedies. This situation must not prevail forever as every human has an inherent right to live until their natural demise. The writers have aimed to explore the binding obligations of the government to prevent food adulteration and to protect people’s essential rights. It highlights that numerous laws exist almost invisibly in the country, and recommends that their enforcement be reinforced in order to protect the people who are exposed to the overly contaminated food markets in Bangladesh.

Sharifa Nasreen and Tahmeed Ahmed `Food Adulteration and Consumer Awareness in Dhaka City, 1995-2011’, Journal of Health Population and Nutrition. 2014 Sep; 32(3): 452–464[38] stated that- they conducted a study to investigate the magnitude of food adulteration during 1995–2011 and consumer awareness in Dhaka city. They reviewed results of food sample testing by Public Health Food Laboratory of Dhaka City Corporation, Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, Consumers Association of Bangladesh publications, reports from lay press, including those on mobile magistrate court operations. They conducted a cross-sectional survey among 96 residents of Dhaka city, using a structured questionnaire in 2006. The overall proportion of food samples adulterated decreased during 2001-2005, and 40-54% of daily-consumed food was adulterated during 1995-2011. More than 35 food items were commonly adulterated. Consumers considered expiry date and quality or freshness as the best criteria while buying packaged and open food items respectively; only 11 (12%) respondents considered approval of regulatory authority for buying packaged food items. More than half of the food consumed in Dhaka city is adulterated, which warrants actions by the Government, the industry, and the consumers.

The researcher also reviewed the Global Food Security Index(GFSI) of June 2016 to assess the food safety and security concerns of Bangladesh from the global perspective. According to GFSI Bangladesh Ranked 95 out of 113 countries and scored only 36.8 out of 100. In food quality and safety category Bangladesh ranked 104 with the individual category score of 29.7. With individual category score of 46.5 Bangladesh ranked 90 in food availability category and in food accessibility category the rank was 91 with the score of 38.1(Global Food Security Index, 2016)[39]



The Major Research Findings are as follows:

3.1 Food Adulteration: The Most Precarious Threat to Food Safety in Bangladesh:

`Food Adulteration’ inter alia is the most common, horrific and deep rooted hazard of food safety in Bangladesh. From the Bangladeshi legal paradigm, in a strict sense, the word `adulteration’ has not been defined in anywhere of the laws prescribed. Nonetheless, by the practices, food adulteration means adding harmful chemicals, toxic colors or harmful additives with the food.[40] This research reveals that Adulteration of food may occur in following three basic patterns-

  1. By adding anything(adulterants as such solids, chemicals, preservatives, coloring/flavoring reagents) with food to deteriorate from the nature, substance and quality of the food desired by the purchaser;
  2. By removing or reducing and substituting any ingredient from food to deteriorate from the nature, substance and quality of the food desired by the purchaser. For example removing milk fat from the sweetmeat, yoghurt, ghee, butter and other milk products or mixing up poorer quality soya bean oil with the branded soya bean oil to increase the bulk.
  3. By false representation of a completely different item to be a food of specific kind. For instance present day condensed milk is a mixture of sterin, sugar and palm oil and there is no element of milk present in the condensed milk.
  • Food Hazards relating to microbial infectious agents are not dealt with:

Food safety is a major focus of food microbiology. Pathogenic bacteria, viruses and toxins produced by microorganisms are all possible contaminants of food.[41] Food microbiology is the study of the microorganisms that inhabit, create, or contaminate food, including the study of microorganisms causing food spoilage.[42] Sources of hazards in food associated with `microbial infectious agents’ are not defined in any law in Bangladesh, even not in recently adopted Food Safety Act, 2013. In our country the problem of foodborne pathogens pose a greater threat to human health than other kinds of hazards linked to the consumption of food. As known that foodborne pathogens generally include various types of bacteria, viruses and parasites. Bacteria and virus are the most common cause of food poisoning. The bacteria and virus that cause the most illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in Bangladesh are: Salmonella, Noro-virus (Norwalk Virus)CampylobacterE. coliListeriaClostridium perfringens. Unfortunately, there is a legal vacuum on this issue and the people have no legal protection against the presence of such infectious agents in food chain.

  • Threats to Food Safety may be Intentional or Unintentional.

Food safety hazards like adulteration, contamination, presence of residue of insecticide & pesticide, anti-biotic and growth hormone in poultry; presence of harmful additives, toxic preservatives(DDT, PCBs Oil, Formalin and so on), heavy metals etc. can be the result of either intentional or unintentional act or omission of an individual. This study finds that food in Bangladesh is prone to threats of intentional activity/omission with intent

  • to increase the shelf life of food items,
  • to increase the bulk and reduce cost, with intent to defraud the consumer,
  • to increase the quantity and make more profit,
  • to attract the consumers,
  • to increase the profit margin on the expense of the health of public or consumer; etc.

On the other hand, food hazards like contamination, presence of residue of insecticide & pesticide in vegetables, fruits etc. and presence of anti-biotic, steroid and growth hormone in highly consumed poultry(cattle, chicken, fish etc.) are the result of ignorance of the farmers or growers about the detrimental effect of pest control and veterinary drugs abuse.

3.4 Risk Exists in the Distribution Chain of Food from `the Farm to the Fork’.

Food adulteration is an unethical business practice. It may occur at any time or any layer along the entire supply chain of the food, from producer to consumer and from `Farm to Fork’. The table 01 demonstrates that food or food product may reach to its consumers through any of the following ways:-

Table 02: `Distribution of Food from the Farm to the Fork’

Farmer / ProducerFarmer / ProducerFarmer / ProducerFarmer / Producer
1. To Agents/Brokers
2. To Manufactures
1. To Wholesalers3. To Wholesalers
1. To Retailers2. To Retailers4. To Retailers
1. To Consumers.2. To Consumers.3. To Consumers.5. To Consumers.

01) Directly to the hands of the consumers without any middleman orFrom the table it is clear that any food or food product may reach from its farmer or producer to the consumers by any of the following way-

02) Firstly to retailers and then to consumers or

03) Firstly to wholesalers, then to retailers and at last to consumers or

04) Firstly to local agents or brokers then to manufacturers later on to wholesalers, then to retailers and at last to consumers etc.

Therefore, food safety may be hampered in any of the above mentioned tiers of food production, stockpiling, manufacturing, processing, preparing, importing, rationing, distribution or serving. As for an instance- mango fruits are collected from various gardens(from farmers) of Rajsahi or Rangpur districts by the local agents. Before shipment some of mangoes may made Calcium Carbide or Ethylene tainted by the dealers. Same may be done during the change(s) made in between the wholesalers and retailers.

  • Strewn Institutional Structure of Food Safety System:

To carry out the purposes of the Food Safety Act, there is a council called the National Food Safety Management Advisory Council for providing necessary advice and direction to the Food Safety Authority and all concerned with the food safety management as to formulate policy and plan on food safety system, and on any other matter ancillary thereto.[43] But it involves 15 ministries and divisions and 14 other statutory bodies for the purpose of ensuring food safety in Bangladesh. All of them have different and individual role to play in that process of action. Therefore, it is cumbersome to maintain effective and efficient co-ordination among all of these institutions which is a great hindrance ensuring `Food Governance’ (Jessica Duncan,2015)[44] in Bangladesh.

  • Over Lapping of Laws:

Laws for criminalizing offences relating to food safety are overlapped. There are as many as 23 Acts, Ordinances, Rules and Regulations to deal specially or indirectly with the various issues on food safety. These statutes have authorized different prosecuting authorities to the government to file, investigate, and prove the case through trial. Again, there is absence of harmonization amongst the present laws and regulations because they offer different types of sentences(both imprisonment and fine) for the offence with definition of the same nature. Such as sections 272 and 273 of the Penal Code, 1860 deals with the food safety issues where sections 23-42 of the Food Safety Act, 2013 also try the same offences specially with upto 5 years jail and/or fine of 20 lakh taka. Again, it becomes punishable under Section 25C of the Special Power Act,1974 where punishment of death penalty or imprisonment for life or 14 years and fine is prescribed for the parallel provisions as aforesaid. Furthermore, Section 42 of the Consumers Right Protection Act, 2009 includes the same offence with upto 03 years jail and/or 02 lakh taka fine.

This multiplicity of laws creates confusion in the mind of manufacturers, processors, retailers or even to the law enforcers to realize which law deals with a what food safety issue and which one to follow.

  • Population Growth Hinders Food Safety:

Bangladesh has a huge population to feed and everyday adds more and more hungry mouths with the present accumulation. According to the report[45] of the daily Prothom Alo on the eve of the world population day, 2017 the total population in Bangladesh is 16.27 crore with the density of 1100 persons per sq km, which is 2nd highest in the world after Singapore. It is true that recently Bangladesh has achieved self-sufficiency in food availability and accessibility by 2015, still once production of food is enough to meet consumers’ demand, it fulfils only one criterion of food security but a whole range of other issues still remain to be addressed. Maintaining the pace with the growing demand of food is already a big challenge in Bangladesh but ensuring the full cycle of that food production to be safe is even bigger challenge. Eventually it gets tougher to ensure food safety with the ever increasing number of population. Ironically, food is not all about grains or cereals only, basing on taste, food-habit and culture people depend on lot other things as food. Interestingly, the rest of the essentials in the food inventory is always at a stake here in Bangladesh.[46]

  • Capital Based Food Safety Net:

Bangladeshi food safety net programmes are mainly based on the capital city, Dhaka. Other metropolis and the rural areas are not covered by such kind of activities. The legal enforcement is under the Food Safety Act, 2013. Under this law Food Sampling[47] is undertaken primarily by local authorities like Pourashava and City Corporation for submission to public analysts[48] for analysis. Among the local authorities only Dhaka South City Corporation(DSCC) and Chittagong City Corporation(CCC) have their own food testing lab to certify the food sample by competent Public Analyst, whether that sample is adulterated, contaminated, fake, substandard or pure, etc. The lab of CCC is not fully functional till date and has a very limited resource. Alarming point is that these labs are established under Urban Public and Environmental Health Sector Development Project following the ‘Food Safety Act’ of 2013 and financed by Asian Development Bank(ADB) and the project is closing by 2018.[49]

The Public Health Food Laboratory under Institute of Public Health(IPH) situated at Mohakhali, Dhaka is the only institution for testing the food sample of the outer Dhaka metropolitan city and other 64 districts, city corporations, pourashavas or the Civil Surgeon offices.

Food Inspectors in those areas feel discouraged to collect food samples which are of natural decoying/ perishable in short time. Eventually, not even a single case is reported/filed in any of the Pure Food Court outside Dhaka Metropolitan under the FSA bringing the culprits involved in the sin. Thus the food safety situation at stake outside Dhaka City.

3.9 Formaldehyde(Formalin) Myth:

Formalin become a buzz word in recent times and is the most common phenomenon in food sector in Bangladesh. “Formalin” is the formulations of formalin, formaldehyde, parapharmaldehyde and its any level, and any other substance that forms the formalin as determined by the government(Formalin Control Act,2015).[50]

The prime caption of The Daily Star, on September 14, 2014 was that-

`Equipped with unfit gear for detecting formalin in food items, law enforcers embarked upon a massive drive in June, 2014 and destroyed mainly truckloads of fruits, achieving next to nothing.’

Scientist of BCSIR commented in response to an order passed on July 21, 2014 to conduct laboratory test of that machine in a writ petition filed on July 9, 2014 to a Bench of Hon’ble Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury and Hon’ble Justice Md. Habibul Gani of the High Court Division that-

`Formalin detector machine “Formaldehyde Meter Z-300” is not appropriate for testing fruits as it can give wrong information about the presence of formalin in fruits since the machine was made to measure presence of formaldehyde in the air’.

Another interesting point is that formalin dose not make chemical reaction with fruit and vegetable because fiber is the main element in those, rather it reacts with protein based foods like fish, meat, milk etc. Dim-witted farmers, growers, whole seller or retailers of food or vegetable use formalin without knowing these crux of the fact.[51]

3.10 BSTI Ordinance versus Pure Food Laws: A Dichotomy of Standard?

`The product that obtained the clearance or certificate mark(CM) from the BSTI, why they will be vexed under PFO/FSA?’ referring to the same plea a good number of cases of the Food Court are challenged by filing writ petition to the Hon’ble High Court. The business operators try to represent this point as `dual standard or dichotomy of standard’ for analysising food in Bangladesh. A good number of cases(more than 40) of Dhaka Pure Food Court are brought to the High Court Division challenging the very provision of law on the plea. But legally their stance is baseless. Because, section 47(1) of PFO gives that law, supremacy over any other law in force relating the various issues of food safety in Bangladesh. Furthermore, purposes of BSTI and those of PFO are completely different. Finally, BSTI overlooked a pre-fixed standards set by government under the Pure Food Rules, 1967.

3.11 Delicate Food Analysis in Laboratories:

Food sampling(analysis) is a process used to check that a food is safe and that it does not contain harmful contaminants, or that it contains only permitted additives at acceptable levels, or that it contains the right levels of key ingredients and its label declarations are correct, or to know the levels of nutrients present.[52] The analytical facilities and arrangements for testing adulterants, contaminants, and any other hazards in Bangladeshi laboratories are considered to be very weal and limited. Many of the `Testing and Methods of Analysis’ of i. Food allergen testing, ii. Food chemical analysis, iii. Food contact tests, iv. Food contaminant testing, v. Nutritional analysis and testing, vi. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) testing, vii. Melamine contamination testing, viii. Microbiological tests, ix. Spiral plating for bacterial count, x. Pesticide residue testing, xi. Veterinary drug residue testing, xii. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) food testing[53], etc. found unavailable, highly expensive and done manually where diagnosis critically failed to attain credibility. There are some of laboratories undertaking food analysis, but most are only testing food on proximate or compositional parameter. Analysis results of all the laboratories are admissible in the eye of law if done as per the parameters and standards of Pure Food Rules,1967 and `Food Safety (Contaminants, Toxins and Harmful Residues) Regulations, 2017[wbivc` Lv`¨ (ivmvqwbK `~lK, Uw·b I ÿwZKi Aewkóvsk) cÖweavbgvjv, 2017]’.

3.12  Impact of Hazards in Food Safety Chain:

Followings are the probable results of to food safety hazards-

  1. Consumers are cheated by the traders. The business operators make illegal profit by manufacturing, processing, retailing or selling lower quality or substandard food items. They practice fraud and sell cheap food items in a higher price to the consumers. Consumers purchase fake, organic, novel, misbranded, counterfeited food items and suffer a huge economic loss. This is popularly known `Economic Adulteration’;
  2. Consumers become compel to take impure, unsafe food. The adulterated foods both fresh and processed are nutritionally poor. Contamination and adulteration Reduces the quality of the food and eventually weakens the health of the consumers and thereby increases the cost for healthcare;
  3. Regular intake of unsafe food leads to many health problems from curable to incurable disorders, diseases and can ruin one’s life and may cause death;
  4. Unsafe food results into numerous acute and life-long diseases. Food safety threat like food adulteration is a slow poising process and poses serious health hazard. Consumption of food tainted with chemicals, sterin, pesticides, insecticide, hormone, antibiotic may cause asthma, sore throat, larynx constriction, bronchitis, skin infection, allergic reaction, diarrhea, haematuria, circulatory failure, numbness, dizziness, kidney failure, stomach, cancer, nervous disorder and other diseases. Use of non–permitted chemicals causes a number of diseases including cancer, convulsion and miscarriage, respiratory problem, disorder of some organs of the body;
  5. An evaluation shows that about 2.2 million people annually die due to food-borne and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases. The dreadful part is that out of this 2.2 million people, 1.9 million are children. Data collected from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDRB), an international health research organization located in Dhaka, indicates that the number of hospital visits per day for treatment of diarrhoea due to food and water borne causes is very distressful. Over-all situation on food contamination in Bangladesh unfortunately reveals an extensive nonconformity with hygienic practice in food handling in Bangladesh.(Tasmiah Ahmed, 2016)[54];
  6. Intentional food safety threats (such as adulteration in food) decrease human moral and social values. A large number of people and companies are engaged in this kind of black business of unsafe food production, manufacture, wholesale and retailing. The entire chain makes involved a lot of people in criminal activity which requires a tremendous government effort and strength to combat with.

Table 3:`List of hazards in different food items and their health effect’

Name of adulterants Applied food itemHarmful effect
FormalinFish, meat and milkThroat cancer kidney cancer, blood cancer, asthma, and skin diseases.
Poisonous colouring agents like auramine, rhodomine B, malachite green, and Sudan redApplied on food item for colouring, brightness, and freshness,Damage liver and kidney, and cause stomach cancer, asthma, and bladder cancer.
Colouring agents chrome, tartzine, and erythrosineUsed in spices, sauces, and juices, lentil, and oilsCausing cancer, allergy, and respiratory problems.
Calcium carbideMango, banana etcCauses cancer in kidney, liver, skin, prostate, and lungs.
Rye flourUsed in barley, bread, and wheat flourConvulsion and miscarriage.
HormoneCauliflower, pineappleCauses infertility of women.
Agino moto or monosodium glutamateUsed in Chinese restaurant food item.Cause nervous system disorder and depression.
UreaPuffed rice and rice.Nervous system damage and
respiratory problem.
SulphuricacidUsed in milk for condensationCauses damage to the cardiac system.
Brick powder, saw dustChilly powderStomach problem.
Non permitted dye like mentanil yellowTurmeric powderCarsinogenic.
Used tea leaves processed and colouredTeaLiver disorder.
Non permitted coalter dye, (mentanil yellow)Sweets, juice, jam etcToxic and carsinogenic.
Artificial colours such as copper, zinc or indigo based dyesSoft and hard drinksToxic.

People of Bangladesh have heard enough of outdated laws such as Pure Food Ordinance, and heard enough of government enacting rigorous, modern laws in place but any visible enforcement is yet to come by. Couple of years gone by since Food Safety Act becomes operative and the Bangladesh Safe Food Authority is formed. 71 Pure Food Courts are established under section 64 of the Act. Every 1st Senior Judicial Magistrate(SJM) Court in 64 Districts, 1st Metropolitan Magistrate(MM) Court for Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet and Barishal Metropolitan Cities(City Corporations[55]), and two Special Metropolitan Magistrate(SMM) Courts each for Dhaka South City Corporation(DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation(DNCC) along with one Special Metropolitan Magistrate Court for Chittagong City Corporation(CCC) are in Charge of the Pure Food Courts around the country. Out of these 71 Courts DSCC, DNCC and CCC have specially appointed 1st Class Magistrates to preside over the Food Courts. Unfortunately, public confidence on safety of food items served to their dishes is still very low. During the study, the researcher being the presiding Judge of the Pure Food Court of Dhaka Metropolitan has observed that there is no instance of filing a single case in any Pure Food Court around the country under FSA, 2013 except the courts of Dhaka Metropolitan city(DSCC & DNCC). Even the number of case filed in these 02 courts is not that much notable. Cases filed after initiation of the Pure Food Court here under Chief Metropolitan Magistracy since early 2016 to September 2017 in DSCC and DNCC in only 133(in DSCC 100, in DNCC 43). Among those cases 52 are disposed of convicting the criminals in 50 cases; one Food Safety Inspector of DSCC was suspended by the food court verdict due to unethical practice. Writ petitions were filed in High Court Division against the proceedings of 18 other cases challenging the dichotomy of standards of Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institute Ordinance(BSTIO) and Pure Food Ordinance(PFO).3.13 Activities of Pure Food Court: The Lone Watchdog

Table 4: `Number of Pure Food Cases Filed and Disposed in Various Jurisdictions’

(Since April, 2016 to September, 2017)[56]

Jurisdiction of the Food CourtCase Reported/ Filed DisposedConvictedRate of ConvictionTotal Fine AwardedWrit Filed Challenging Duel Standard
Other Metropolitans /City Corporations0000
64 Districts0000

Thus, from the aforesaid findings the researcher comes to the opinion that Bangladesh has a vulnerable situation of food safety. There exists no food safety in towns and rural areas in Bangladesh. It has the sad reflection of poor policy formulation, co-ordination, adoption of international bindings and over all lack of efficient and effective `food governance’ to deal with such serious issue in iron hands. Paradox is that criminal violations relating to food safety are defined under the legislation of 2013’s Food Safety Act, whereas definition and standards for various foods(only 107 in total) were set under 1967’s Pure Food Rules! Bangladesh Food Safety Authority(BFSA) has failed to resolve this issue and PFR’s conflict with BSTIO adopting a comprehensive and inclusive standard for food in Bangladesh. Here, food safety threats are not identified properly as per severity and impact on the public health, and the new Food Safety Act having several lacuna, is not efficient enough to ensure complete justice for the consumers, and the vendors, food business operators, etc. Bangladesh has many laws on food issues but food is most unsafe here due to pitiable observance of law. Therefore, the researcher opines that this study sufficiently justifies the `Research Statement’[58].Thus, the amount of cases filed in these Dhaka city courts is very low in terms of the ongoing phenomenal threats to food safety and prosecuting activities against the culprits in other cities and districts is totally absent which reflects the scenario that the government is very much reluctant to file cases on the breach of Food Safety Act to punish the culprits.[57]



Ensuring effective and efficient `Food Governance’(Jessica Duncan, 2015)[59] in Bangladesh is mandatory. In order to respond to food crises and secure the right to (safe)food for everyone, the international community has been working to establish a new approach to governance of food and agricultural systems, which is in common parlance developed as paradigm of `Food Governance’.  As already discussed in introductory chapter, food governance is multi-actor: e.g. private and public actors set up labelling systems to monitor food safety. It is multi-level: NGOs and different layers of government express intentions about food trade, formulation of policies and laws ensuring food safety for its citizens, develop ideas of fighting hunger and climate change on global and local level. Food governance involves many conflicting values and dimensions. It is linked to international trade, environmental problems, agricultural(EU) policies, human rights, poverty reduction, and health problems.(Breeman and Barling,2013)[60] It poses challenging questions to those involved in food politics, in terms of complex and transboundary interactions and adaptive governance structures. From Bangladeshi context, food governance is a politically strategic issue concerning the people’s right to food(means and includes safe food) as ensured under the constitution. Obviously, government has a big role to play in food chains:  in their tax regimes; through import regulations; food market supervision, by ensuring compliance of present laws and regulation dealing with food safety; regulations governing veterinary drugs, insecticides and pesticides and finally by ensuring an effective and efficient coordination and combination among the government ministries, divisions and organization to deal with the food safety and security issues. Ensuring food safety in Bangladesh is a multi-sectoral responsibility of food governance. Fifteen ministries, divisions and organization are involved in food safety and quality control and rest of fourteen are directly involved in food inspection and enforcement services. The roles and responsibilities of the concerned ministries and agencies must be specific and should cover the whole food chain. The National Food Safety Advisory Council (NFSAC) needs prompt action for overall coordination for food safety and food control at the national level.It is hard to eradicate the hazards to food safety from a country like Bangladesh. Nonetheless, following observations may lead the path ways to combat the challenges.

  1. Bangladesh needs to develop four tools to ensure food safety: i. A strong authority to co-ordinate the whole food governance management; ii. A special and reserve team or government standing force for regular patrolling, inspection, prosecution and immediate intervention in any food safety threat; iii. Specialized judicial organ for quick disposal of complaints to end the impunity, iv. Awareness among the stakeholders though advocacy of social, electronic and print media, educational systems, group of volunteers, etc.
  2. It is the government’s responsibility to develop scientific methods of food preservation that more suits to this country without compromising the health concerns.
  3. Credible laboratory services for food analysis and risk based food inspection system to be in place. Well equipped laboratories for every kind of food analysis such as- tests for formalin, calcium carbide, DDT, preservative and color check, with skilled personnel must be established in each district all over Bangladesh;
  4. From the firsthand experience of dealing with the compliance side of Food Safety Act, 2013 of the researcher, he opines that undoubtedly this law is based on modern scientific regulatory framework. But it has some strong drawbacks too. This law is formulated in 2013 with new paradigms and concepts unfortunately the standard and parameters set for the forensic requirements of food items are defined by the Pure Food Rules of 1967. Furthermore, there are conflicts of standard between PFR and BSTIO. Therefore, it is urgent to decide which standards to be followed and to enact a comprehensive set of rules of standard and parameters to define various food items based on Codex standard.
  5. Harmonization of food safety laws and regulation among the various local and international laws relating to food is essential in terms of setting standard and also for sentencing for any breach relating food safety.[61]
  6. Government must ensure proper implementation of Food Safety Act, 2013. The concern authorities such as Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, Chief Health Officer(CHO) of the City Corporations, Food Safety Laboratories and their Food Safety Inspectors must perform their duties with utmost sincerity. They should be made highly accountable for their jobs.
  7. Transparency and accountability must be ensured as if there exists no choose and pick policy on the side of the prosecutors in filing cases or even collecting food samples for lab tests. Offenders must be prosecuted indiscriminate to any consideration.
  8. A system for record keeping and documentation of food inspection and enforcement activities needs to be put in place. The food inspection and enforcement system in Bangladesh still needs to be strengthened to address the significant food safety issues that are prevailing in Bangladesh. Framing of inspection manuals, protocols, guidelines and checklists for inspectors to use during operation is immensely required. (Ahmed, 2016)[62]
  9. Judicial institutions like Pure Food Court, Summary trial Court/Mobile court can play a big role in bringing the culprits to meet the justice and awarding exemplary punishment. Every Pure Food Court must be given power to take cognizance and dispose any complaint under all the 23 food related laws of land. Thus it will be a single forum to deal with all related matters or laws of food sector. Pure Food Courts must have the power to cancel the trade license of companies involved in production, manufacture or sale of any food or food item prohibited in law. Presently courts can only recommend to the concerned authority for cancellation or for any other administrative action.
  10. Carriage of food especially those are perishable like fruits, fresh vegetables, milk, fish, etc. should be given preference at the time of transportation as if those can reach the destination without any delay. Then it will be no more required to add preservative, formalin, DDT, etc. to increase the life shell of those foods.
  11. The consumers must give up the compromising attitude towards any threat to food safety. Consumers must `Sound the Alarm and Demand Action’. They must protest and raise their voice to ensure their legitimate rights and demand that government makes the right choices to ensure safe food.
  12. Increasing public and academic attention of the Bangladeshi people to food safety, its intense challenges and problems is essential. Ensuring food safety must be a political concern and should stand in the prioritized list of agendas of the government. Fatal impacts of hazards of food safety issue must be included in curriculum at different levels of the school, college etc. along with hygiene and health care issues.
  13. Creation of Mass communication, motivation, awareness and training of food producers, operators, manufacturers, seller, consumers against the various food safety issues; Steps must be taken to overcome Poor knowledge of standards, laws/regulations among the producers and consumers.



Food has moral, economic, and security imperatives.(Obama,2012)[63] Food is fundamental to human existence, and plays an important role in social, economic, and cultural life. Yet population growth, climate change, and marketization challenge the ability of the global food system to deliver safe, adequate, nutritious, and sustainable food to the world’s population. As per global aspects locally, ensuring food safety is a big challenge in Bangladesh. It is always tough to ensure availability and accessibility of a huge quantity of staple food to 16.27 crore people, let alone ensuring quality and safety of that food and it’s nutrition value. To overcome food safety threats Bangladesh need a concerted effort encompassing stakeholders of all sectors or else it is going to face deep trouble in near future. It’s high time, let’s raise the wall against hazards of food safety.  For a new tomorrow, let’s start today.


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[1] Zilin, S. and Malik, A. H.(2012). Food Safety Issues in New Zealand: An Update, Food Safety Magazine: Cover story, October 15, 2012, available at enewsletter/food-safety-issues-in-new-zealand-an-update/ visited on 30-06-2017;

[2] FAO,WHO.(2003). Assuring food safety and quality: guidelines for strengthening national food control systems. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization; 2003. p. 28. (FAO food and nutrition paper no. 76).

[3] visited on 23-06-2017

[4], visited on 25-06-2017

[5] Act number 43 of 2013

[6] CHAPTER V, ‘Prohibitions related to Food Safety Management System’ of Food Safety Act, 2013

[7] Food Safety (Contaminants, Toxins and Harmful Residues) Regulations, 2017

[8] ibid

[9] ibid

[10] visited on 11-06-2017

[11] Zilberman, D.(2015). The Nexus Between Food Safety and Food Security, Cover Story: By Food Safety Magazine, October/November 2015, available at, visited on 30-06-2017

[12] An Introduction to the Basic Concepts of Food Security, Food Security Information for Action, Practical Guides, page- 01, available at, visited on 17-06-2017

[13] Adopted by Ministry of Food and Disaster Management on 14 August, 2006

[14] Detail list of existing legislations is endorsed in para 2.1.3 namely, `Basic Laws on Food Safety’

[15] Sobhani, M.(2015). Food Adulteration: Bangladesh Paradox, Journal of Bangladesh Judicial Administration Training Institute: JATI Publishers, Page- 109

[16] Haque, M.(2017). Lecture on Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, BIGM on 09-06-2017

[17] Reza, A.(2016). Food security: It’s not only about production, available at supplements/25th-anniversary-special-part-4/food-security-its-not-only-about-production-212035, visited on12-06-2017

[18]  Food Security is elaborated in the definition(First) chapter.

[19] General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was a legal agreement between many countries, whose overall purpose was to promote international trade by reducing or eliminating trade barriers such as tariffs or quotas.

[20] Available at-

[21] FAO. 1996. Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action. World Food Summit 13-17 November 1996. Rome.

[22] Section – A: Preamble of the National Food Policy,2006

[23] Available at:

[24] Article-8(2) of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 1972

[25] Reported in 48 DLR(1996), page- 438[DLR= Dhaka Law Report]

[26] Ibid, Para 20

[27] Preamble of the Food Safety Act, 2013(Act No. 43 of 2013) published on[10th October, 2013]

[28] ibid Chapter V

[29] ibid Table of the Schedule under Section 58

[30] ibid Section 60

[31] ibid Section 65(2)

[32] ibid Section 64(2)

[33] ibid Section 64(4)

[34] ibid Section 72

[35] ibid Section 62

[36] ibid Section 76

[37] Solaiman, S.M. and Ali, A.N. (2014). Extensive Food Adulteration in Bangladesh: A Violation of Fundamental Human Rights and the State’s Binding Obligations, Journal of Asian and African Studies: Institution of African Studies

[38] Nasreen, S.  and Ahmed, T.(2014). Food Adulteration and Consumer Awareness in Dhaka City, 1995-2011, Journal of Health Population and Nutrition.32(3): 452–464

[39] Available at, visited on 30-06-2017

[40] Sobhani, M.(2015). Food Adulteration: the Bangladesh Paradox, Bangladesh: Journal of the Judicial Administration Training Institute, volune- XIV, page 106

[41], visited on 19-07-2017

[42] ibid

[43] Section 3(1) of the Food Safety Act, 2013

[44] Duncan, J. (2015).Global Food Security Governance: Civil society engagement in the reformed Committee on World Food Security, Routledge

[45], visited on 11.07.2017

[46] Sobhani, M.(2015). Food Adulteration: the Bangladesh Paradox, Bangladesh: Journal of the Judicial Administration Training Institute, volune- XIV, page 112

[47] Food sampling is a process used to check that a food is safe and that it does not contain harmful contaminants, or that it contains only permitted additives at acceptable levels, or that it contains the right levels of key ingredients and its label declarations are correct, or to know the levels of nutrients present. Available at:, visited on 11-07-2017

[48] Public Analysts are scientists whose principal task is to ensure the safety and correct description of food by testing for compliance with legislation. Available at:, visited on 11-07-2017

[49], visited on 11-06-2017

[50] Formalin Control Act, 2015(Act No. 5 of 2015)

[51] Public notice on Formalin, 2017, available at

[52] Available at:, visited on 22-07-2017

[53] PCR food testing is the engagement of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technologies for the testing of food for the presence or absence of human pathogens, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, etc. Available at:, visited on 22-07-2017

[54] Tasmia, N.(2016). Food safety and Bangladesh, Bangladesh: The independent, 31-05-2016 available at

[55]  There are no separate Food Courts for Rangpur, Narayangonj, Gazipur and Comilla City Corporations/Metropolitans

[56] No case was filed in 2015

[57] The factors behind these are briefly elaborated in para 3.8

[58] Research statement is-`The Food safety scenario in Bangladesh is critical and the steps taken in combating the food safety hazards are not effective.’

[59] Duncan, J. (2015).Global Food Security Governance: Civil society engagement in the reformed Committee on World Food Security, Routledge

[60] Breeman, G. and Barling, D.(2013) ECPR General Conference Sciences Po, Bordeaux, 4 – 7 September 2013, available at

[61] Sobhani, M., Food-Adulteration: The Bangladesh Paradox, Journal of the Judicial Administration Training Institute(JATI), volune- XIV, 2o15, page 109

[62] Tasmia, N.(2016). Food safety and Bangladesh, Bangladesh: The independent, 31-05-2016 available at

[63] Obama, B.(2012), Remarks by the President of US at Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, The White House: Office of the Press Secretary, Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C May 18, 2012

About The Writer

Article Author Image

Md. Mahboob Sobhani

Special Metropolitan Magistrate

Pure Food Court
Dhaka South City Corporation


Welcome To "Law Journal BD"

Rafiqul Haque

“Law Journal BD” is a timely and innovative step towards the growth and development of law. The Journal is a combination of articles from experts which will broaden the scope of our legal instrument and jurisprudence. I sincerely hope the initiative will help the lawyers to be more informed & committed to struggle for justice. It would be more appropriate to consider it as a work of compilation of contributions from various jurists, practitioners and academicians. The “Law Journal BD” publishes articles on all aspects of law.

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Mahfuzur Rahman

The “Law Journal BD” is the first Online Law journal in Bangladesh which specifically publishes law articles only. You will find here different kind of research based articles on various Law topics. The primary function of the journal is to publish lengthy comprehensive treatments of articles generally written by law academicians, Judges, or legal practitioners. A significant feature is that the distinguished writers analyze judicial decisions, contemporary developments of law, legislation and current law reform.

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