Consumer protection is virtually non-existent in this country, despite the publicity presence of more than one consumer protection organisations. The regulatory agencies of the government designed for monitoring product standards and market ethics are virtually non-functional, except for the purpose of blackmail and extortion of substandard product manufacturers and shopkeepers. The best possible consumer protection in many countries are provided by the association of particular product manufacturers keen to maintain fair competition, or by the management of chain stores or boutiques themselves. But in Bangladesh where black economy and smuggled goods dominate the market, such ethical conduct by beleaguered manufacturers or stealthy shopkeepers is rather absent.

Nonetheless, thanks to Consumers Association of Bangladesh, a marketing fraud has been detected relating to five brands of so-called condensed milk items. The common consumer has been purchasing one or other of the five brands selling as condensed milk, namely Goalini, Danish, Star Ship, Goala and Fresh Condensed Milk. All of them are locally processed and packed for marketing.

Official intervention in their marketing came first in Barisal, where sanitary inspectors charged and obtained court verdict for seven days, simple imprisonment along with a fine of 700 takas for eight salesmen selling Goalini, Danish and Star Ship condensed milk. They were detected by the relevant sanitary inspectors as substandard and adulterated, and the salesmen were charged accordingly. Following that finding and prosecution, the Consumers' Association of Bangladesh collected samples of the above named five brands popularly marketed as condensed milk, and sent the samples to Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI). The tests revealed that the so-called condensed milk items were not milk products at all but cheap derivatives of palm oil. One of the five companies was found to be marketing its product with no BSTI test or approval at all. Others were selling products of lower quality and non-milk fat origin, different from their given sample products for BSTI clearance.

The Consumers Association of Bangladesh has demanded government action against the relevant companies. What is needed further is an appropriate and effective regulatory and monitoring system involving the consumers, marketing men and of manufacturers themselves, and a proper labelling system to inform the consumer about the composition of each product content, while the process could be a patented trade secret.

Source: The Independent, 15. 12. 02

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