Most of brand and non-brand cooking oils are unhygienic
Special Correspondent: Most of the soybean oils, mustard oil and ghee sold to consumers lack standard specification of cooking oils. The tests, which were carried out over the last two years at the Public Health Laboratory (PHL) in the Institute of Public Health (IPH), show that 100 percent of the samples of food products like chocolate, cake, Chhana, yogurt, pickles, dried fish, fruit syrup, sesame oil and vegetable oil (dalda) were adulterated. Marketing of the adulterated oils speed up during the month of Ramadan, when the consumption goes up.
The recent study by the government found that standard edible oil properties like moisture content, iodine, saponification and free fatty acid were largely missing from the cooking oils sold in the country.
Consumer rights activists called it quite unacceptable that no punitive action was ever been taken against companies marketing substandard essential edible oils even after government studies found gross irregularities in the area of serious public health concern. They said neither the consumers nor the retailers are aware about the values that ought to be there in cooking oils sold in the market.
They said that the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute earned the reputation of neglecting its mandated regulatory responsibilities. They called it astonishing that even the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, heading inter-ministerial and inter-departmental food safety enforcement programme, also keeps its eyes shut to gross irregularities in the area of vital importance.
The Institute of Public Health (IPH), during a study done between July 2016 and June 2017, found that only three per cent of soybean oils, both branded and otherwise, sold to consumers meet the standards. It also found that ghee and mustard oil invariably failed to meet the standards.
The study reports released recently says that the shocking findings resulted from testing 96 samples of cooking oils.
On chemical analysis all the branded and unpacked samples of mustard oil, soybean oil and ghee were found to be lacking the standard characteristics of cooking oil. IPH found unacceptable level of moisture content and free fatty acid in mustard oils sold in the kitchen markets.
It also found unacceptable levels of moisture content in branded and non-branded soybean oils but saponification value was lower than the set standards.
In ghee, moisture and free fatty acid contents were above the acceptable levels while saponification value was below the standard level. The study found vitamin ‘A’ in nine bran656ds of soybean oil but only three of the brands were permitted value compliant.
The National Food Safety Laboratory of IPH sources told Daily Industry, without divulging the brands that the samples would be sent to the BSTI for action.
He said BSTI fines and jails unscrupulous sellers to check marketing of substandard products.
Consumers Association Bangladesh president Ghulam Rahman told that the marketing companies were cheating consumers taking advantage of their ignorance about the properties needed in cooking oil. He said that the irregularities continue to failure of the authorities to punish the corrupt companies and persons.
Findings from laboratory tests have shown that over 46% of the food items that are available in the market are adulterated, and all the samples of some of the most popular items were found to be contaminated with harmful chemicals.
Around 80-99% of soybean oil was found to be adulterated.
IPH sources of the PHL of National Food Safety Laboratory, told that they had tested 10,289 samples of 92 different food items over the past two years, and had found that more than 46% of the samples were adulterated.
A total of 5,322 and 4,967 food samples were tested during last two years. Of the samples tested, 2,588 and 2,137 samples were found to be adulterated during the period.
Large percentages of samples from other popular food items that were found to be adulterated include mustard oil, biscuit, powdered chilli, powdered turmeric, salt, palm oil, milk, powder milk, and jelly.
Health sector sources said the government had passed the food act and once the rules are finalised they will go for drastic punitive actions against those involved with the adulterated food business.
Health specialists say millions of Bangladeshis are being affected by food poisoning every year, and yet people are unaware of it. Although there has been no nationwide research on food adulteration and its affect on health, food adulteration is a leading cause behind the increase in non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer, stroke, hypertension, and heart and kidney-related ailments, they added.