Edible oil slips on purity test

About half of 300 samples of randomly collected edible oil have been found adulterated, according to sources in the Public Health Institute (PHI). Experts also tested cooked foods from restaurants registered with the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) and were appalled by the extent of contamination

The first batch of samples was so contaminated that scientists thought errors had occurred in the collection process. But tests on a second batch at the Public Health Laboratory showed similar contamination

A source said some edible oil sold from drums in the market was found to contain what experts described as a "pre-cancerous" chemical. Other branded edible oil contained contaminated chemicals that could not be identified without better laboratory equipment

The experts also tested 300 samples of edible salt from markets in different parts of the country and found 'most' brands inconsistent in the amount of iodine that had been added. Some packets contained the required five per cent mixture of iodine while other packets from the same brand had a lot more, less or none at all.

Many samples collected from around the country had BSTI (Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution) approval. The institution has issued standards for 46 food items. But experts said that after receiving BSTI certification, the producers simply use "whatever ingredients they like" with any checking by inspectors

The tests were conducted under a Tk 1 million Food Safety Project funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Experts from the PHI, the DCC and Dhaka University took part in the project. The final report of the project will be released soon

Some experts in the project said they thought that the expiry dates on some items are also regularly tampered with. They suggested that imported food items should be tested before being allowed inside the country.

They also said that "gastro-enterological" diseases have spread like an epidemic throughout the country. There had never been a survey to find out the causes of the diseases, but there are strong indications that adulterated foods could be the culprit. Million of poor people may be the hardest hit because they buy cheaper foods in small amounts from bazaars

(Source: The Daily Star, February 5, 2003)

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