Food Adulteration and Consumer Awareness in Dhaka City, 1995-2011

By Nasreen, Sharifa; Ahmed, Tahmeed | Journal of Health Population and Nutrition, September 2014 | Go to article overview

Food Adulteration and Consumer Awareness in Dhaka City, 1995-2011


Nasreen, Sharifa, Ahmed, Tahmeed, Journal of Health Population and Nutrition


INTRODUCTION

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" (1). Important food hazards include microbial hazards, pesticide residues, misuse of additives, chemical contaminants, including biological toxins and adulteration. Although microbiological contamination and chemical hazards have received most attention, it is recognized that food adulteration and food fraud should not be neglected considering their role in public health (2). Food adulteration includes various forms of practices, such as mixing, substituting, concealing the quality of food by mislabelling, putting up decomposed or expired food, and adding toxic substances (3). It is an age-old problem that affects people at all societal strata. The consequences of food adulteration are two-fold for the consumers: the economic loss by paying more for lower-quality food items and the health hazards. The health hazards can result from either addition of deleterious substances or removal of a vital component (4). Some adulterants may even lead to death (1,3).

Most of the food items collected from the respondents' residents were found adulterated in a study conducted in Haryana, India, and the main adulterants in food samples included water in milk, chalk powder in turmeric powder or sugar, artificial colour in chili powder, water-soluble colour in green and black gram, artificial colour in chickpea flour, and essential oil removed from cardamom (5). More than half of the food samples tested during 2002 at the Institute of Public Health in Dhaka were adulterated; among the samples tested, 100% samples of butter oil and banaspati dalda, 90% condensed milk/sweetmeats, 72.3% ghee and honey, and 57.2% cow's milk were adulterated (6). During 2002-2003, Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute (BSTI) had 250 surveillance team/mobile courts that collected 226 food samples from open market for testing, issued 117 show-cause notices to manufacturers for substandard products, cancelled 45 trade licenses, and undertook 35 legal actions (7). The mobile court raids against food adulteration intensified in 2005 when electronic and print media featured reports on horrendous food adulteration practices. Sixty-four percent sellers/producers in a study in Bangladesh reported using chemicals in their products, although 74% were aware that mixing chemicals with food was harmful to health. They used harmful chemicals to make the products more lucrative, increase shelf-life, substitute for unavailable natural raw materials, and reduce price of the goods (8). Recently, a growing concern has been the use of prohibited food colours, such as textile dyes in many foods to increase acceptability of food (9). Nearly half of the samples of sweetmeats and confectionary items contained non-permitted food colours in Pakistan (10). In India, consumption of non-permitted textile colours or abuse of colours were attributed to reported foodborne illnesses (11).

There are several laws and regulations in our country to ensure the standard of food manufacture and sale (Box 1) (7,12). Enforcement of food laws, rules and regulations in Bangladesh is a shared responsibility of different ministries and their concerned departments. The food samples are analyzed at different government food laboratories. The Consumer Right Protection Ordinance 2008 was passed in the Parliament on 1 April 2009.

Studies conducted on food safety mostly focus on microbiological contamination. There is limited published data on the temporal trend and magnitude of food adulteration and on consumers' knowledge, attitude, and practices regarding food adulteration in Bangladesh. These data would help formulate preventive and control measures to reduce food adulteration and ensure the safety and integrity of food the citizens buy and consume. We conducted this study to describe the magnitude of food adulteration from 1995 to 2011 in Dhaka city; determine whether raids by the mobile food court intensifying in 2005 had any impact on food adulteration; identify commonly-adulterated food items and common adulterants; and determine food adulteration-related knowledge, attitude, and practice of consumers in Dhaka city. …

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