Now is the time to stand against food adulteration


May 15th, 2015

They say, “You are what you eat.” For me, it means, the food I eat shapes my health and behaviour.

Let me describe it briefly. Food gives you energy through providing vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients. All these ingredients keep you physically fit or unfit. When you feel physically fit, you are okay with your everyday life – work, sleep, etc. But what happens when your stomach is upset? You get physically ill, that leads you to be mentally disturbed. Your mental disturbance reflects on your behaviour – you get irritated, lose patience, and in the end, you lose your ability to work. Often for a shorter time, sometimes for longer, and could be for a lifetime.
_MG_7218Let’s take a look on what we the Bangladeshi people eat normally: rice, dahl, vegetables, fish, meat, fruit, etc. I could make this list longer, but for the average Bengalis, these items are common. Although, as far as fruit is concerned, we are not that big “fruit eaters.”

Fruit comes on to our plate, mostly seasonally. Other than banana, coconut, papaya, guava, and some insignificant fruits, most of our fruits are seasonal. However, you can find imported fruits round the year.

Bangladeshi fruit-months are approaching. The Bengali month “Jyeshtha” (second month of Bengali year; and mid of May) regarded as the “Madhu Mash,” means the month of honey. Honey, because of the sweet fruits, we are going to eat this month and the following one-two months.

Every market along with supper shops and roadside makeshift shops will be flooded with many different fruits: mango, jackfruit, blackberry, litchi, pineapple, plum-seed, variety of melons, and many other fruits. The month is also a festive month in the rural Bangladesh. Grooms are often invited to visit their in-law’s houses. Friends send fruits as a gift. Even sometimes, fruits like special quality mango (from Rajshahi; north-western division) and lychee (from Dinajpur; also northern district) are given as a bribe instead of money.

But what do we eat with our fruit?

formalin-kitThis is a really big question for the last couple of years. For most of the roadside shops, fruits are adulterated. They apply carbide for early ripening and formalin for longer shelf life. 

When I say “they,” it’s not necessarily the shop keepers or fruit sellers. Sometimes, at source, during harvesting, carbides and formalin are applied. It’s an open secret for us, but no significant steps are taken to stop this. I must say, adulteration does not go only with fruits, but with many kinds of foods.

Do the Bangladeshi people aware of this not eat fruit?

Funny question indeed. But the fact is: we pay more, sometimes double than the normal market price, to buy fresh fruit/food. There are some shops, especially in the big cities, that sell unadulterated fruit and food.

Should this be the solution?

I must say “no.” it’s a human right for everybody to eat safe food at a reasonable price. To be healthy, both physically and mentally is needed by all.

As a Practical Action staff member, I feel that we should do something about this. With our Food, Agriculture and Markets programme, in Bangladesh, we could innovate an affordable technological device that would help people to test their food/fruit to see whether it is adulterated or not. I know that there is a formalin testing machine out there somewhere. We need to take initiatives to make this machine available for the commoners. We also could take part in the campaign against food adulteration to raise awareness. If necessary we should have a fresh study on it, and start policy influencing work as soon as possible.

In the beginning, I was saying that the food you eat shapes your behaviour, but if the food, you eat kills you, you are beyond behaviour. Should we wait until then?

2 responses to “Now is the time to stand against food adulteration”

  1. Sanjib Says:

    Thanks for raising such a pressing issue, Mehrab. Though it will take time to develop apps that can detect fruits dipped in Formalin and Calcium Carbide ripened fruits, for the time being it’s the insects – flies, bees, ants or any other fruit loving insects. They simply stay away from the chemical-laced fruits.

  2. prawn curry recipe Says:

    Thanks for the burning post.I think also it is the time to stand against food adulteration.Food helps us to live and adulterated food causes silent death. Now, it is a global problem.So, it is a time to raise our voice against food adulteration.The people who are responsible for food adulteration,necessary steps should be taken against them.I think, it is the responsibility all of us.

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