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Improving food safety in Bangladesh

Safe food conference of the Bangladesh Food Safety Network


10/02/2016

The Bangladesh Food Safety Network is composed of the 5 NGOs – Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh, B-SAFE, Shishuk, Hunger Free World and UBINIG – and its outreach activities all over Bangladesh are supported by the FAO food safety programme.

On 10 February 2016, the BFSN organized a one-day conference to highlight its work over the last 3 years and focus on its success stories. The conference brought together 250 participants including consumer groups, farmers, civil society and women’s groups, environmental networks, local government representatives and individual professionals from about 35 districts.

In the inaugural session, Ms. Farida Akhter, President, Bangladesh Food Safety Network presented an overview of the work of BFSN and the important results it had achieved in generating consumer awareness of food safety by targeting household preparers and school children. The keynote speech was delivered by Ms. Rebeka Parveen, Vice Chairman, Delduar Upazila Parishod, Tangail.  She described the efforts that enabled Delduar to be declared as a safe food upazila on 15 September, 2015. This included the setting up of a co-ordination mechanism involving seventeen departments of the Upazila administration, activities for creation of public awareness for safe food and linking local markets with farmers who have been following the principles of Good Agriculture Practices since the early 1990s.

In his remarks, Sridhar Dharmapuri, Food Safety Officer and In-charge of the FAO Food Safety Programme emphasized that the Delduar needs to be well documented for sharing and extension in other geographical areas of Bangladesh. He also described how the Programme has strengthened key elements of food safety for the Government of Bangladesh. Prof. Alan Reilly, Senior Technical Advisor, FAO, in his remarks said that food safety was a comprehensive issue and needed as much participation from the civil society as from the Government. Mike Robson, FAO Representative in Bangladesh said that while the declaration of Delduar as a model of safe food upazila is a milestone, the criteria for the same should be clearly delineated so that other upazilas could follow. The Chief Guest, Dr. Md. Abdur Razzak MP, Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee, Ministry of the Finance, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh spoke about the background to the framing and enactment of the Food Safety Act, 2013 and the steps being undertaken to operationalize it.

Two technical sessions were organized. The first one was on voices from the districts and upazilas, many of whom already had ongoing initiatives on Good Agriculture Practices and consumer awareness. Contributors described their links with the BFSN and provided their thoughts on how the network could expand and widen its reach. The second technical session was on the measures to promote the Food Safety Act, 2013 and its provisions. Speakers emphasized the need for capacity building of local government institutions including Union councils, Upazila councils, municipalities and City Corporations as well as spreading awareness on hygiene and other good practices along the food chain.

The Food Safety Programme warmly thanks the BFSN for organizing this dialogue and sharing of information between all key stakeholders of food safety in Bangladesh.

Food control mechanism needs evaluation to work out a standard matching the international system in a holistic approach.