FAO in Bangladesh

New Mobile Food Safety Laboratory to hit the streets of Dhaka


Bangladesh’s first Mobile Food Safety Laboratory was officially launched today.

The roving modern laboratory will tour markets in the capital city to raise awareness of food safety and good food handling practices. It is equipped to test for a range of harmful food contaminants and pathogens including toxic chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, antibiotics, E.coli, salmonella, shigella, and formaldehyde.

The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) will operate the laboratory, gathering data and insights about food contamination that will inform food safety campaigns.

The laboratory was provided though a project implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

BFSA analysts will perform a range of tests that will concentrate of four categories:

  • Toxic chemicals in spices, such as lead-based compounds in turmeric, which can cause health problems such as memory loss and infertility.
  • Pesticides in fruits and vegetables. High levels of pesticide residue in food can cause disease and serious long-term illness, such as cancer.
  • E.coli in water. The presence of E.coli bacteria in water indicates faecal matter contamination. It can cause dysentery in adults and children.
  • Salmonella in street food. The presence of salmonella indicates unhygienic food handling practices. The bacteria causes gastrointestinal disorders.

Up to three technicians will be able to perform tests simultaneously. On-board modern equipment will allow them to test for the basic food safety parameters (E. Coli, salmonella, shigella, formaldehyde, pesticide residues, mycotoxins, heavy metals in water, plus some basic toxic adulterant and colorants.) Test results take from just a few minutes to a few hours. Although these tests are not as thorough as analyses performed in large laboratories they are enough to detect the worst cases of contamination, allowing officials to alert sellers and buyers.

BFSA officials will also provide advice about safe food hygiene practices and gather feedback from market sellers and consumers. The mobile laboratory comes equipped with its own television screen to show educational videos and an information area, complete with pullout canopy and tables and chairs.

Ensuring food safety and consumer protection are issues high on the political agenda in Bangladesh and a major concern for policy makers. The food supply chain in Bangladesh faces numerous safety challenges.