The High Court yesterday ordered the government to enforce the law on safe food in two months to ensure public health and safety.
The law secretary has to make Safe Food Act 2013 effective after finalising the draft of its relevant rules and issue a gazette notification in this regard within the stipulated time, the court said.
The ruling comes at a time when concerns are growing over excessive use of toxic pesticides and preservatives in food items, including vegetables, fruits, fish, milk and processed food.
Recent government study has also found chickens and eggs contain high level of antibiotics and chromium, reports the Daily Star.
Intake of such contaminated food can cause respiratory, kidney and liver related problems, skin disease and even cancer. Expecting mothers and children are particularly vulnerable to chemically treated food.
The HC bench of Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Muhammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar gave the directives after hearing a petition by Legal Action Bangladesh Foundation.
The petition was filed on May 21, seeking the court’s directives on the government to take necessary measures to ensure safe food.
The petitioner said the House already passed the Safe Food Act 2013, but it was yet to take effect.
Under the act, the government is supposed to form a 30-member National Safe Food Management Advisory Council headed by the food minister to coordinate the actions and decisions of the safe food authority.
Following the petition, the HC on May 26 issued a rule asking the government to explain why it should not be directed to enforce the law through issuing a gazette notification.
It also ordered the food secretary to submit the relevant progress report before it.
After taking time from the court on four occasions, the food secretary yesterday submitted a report to the HC through Deputy Attorney General Al-Amin Sarker.
In the report, the secretary said his ministry prepared draft rules for enforcing the law, and that the draft was sent to the law ministry for vetting.
Citing the report, the DAG said the food ministry sent a proposal for constituting the safe food authority to the public administration ministry for its consent. The ministry is also to fix the salary, allowance, benefit and other terms of services of its chairman and members.
A conditional consent has already been obtained from the public administration ministry and the proposal has also been sent to the finance ministry for its consent.
The safe food authority will be constituted after getting the consent from the finance ministry, the report said.
However, the report added there was no budget allocation in this financial year for the office of the food safety authority. A letter has been sent to the Directorate of Food to allocate space for the offices of its chairman and members.
After completing these processes, the Safe Food Act 2013 will be enforced, the food secretary added.
The petitioner’s counsel, Syed Mohidul Kabir, told the HC that the government made no significant progress in implementing the law even after the court ruling.
In April, the HC in another ruling ordered the government to check food adulteration.
Early this month, the court directed the authorities to set up check posts at the ports to prevent chemically treated food from entering the country.