Public concern about adulterants such as formalin in food, underlies the growing number of enforcement drives we are witnessing to make the food we eat safer.
However, awareness also needs to be raised about the hidden problem of food being contaminated by high traces of heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury.
These have accumulated hugely in our food chain because of irrigation waters and soil being contaminated by pollution.
A major study conducted by Bangladesh Agricultural University which examined samples from kitchen markets in Gulshan, Karwan Bazar, and Hazaribagh found widespread contamination of food by heavy metals and other minerals.
Many major food groups including cereals, vegetables, spices and rice were found to contain excessively high concentrations suggesting many people are consuming far higher amounts than the generally accepted tolerable weekly intake levels. While cooking methods can have an influence on how such contaminants are absorbed, the study found the problem recurring across all price levels affecting wealthier and poorer consumers alike.
Although we expect consumers and retailers to work together to demand more stringent enforcement of food safety standards, a concerted national effort is also needed to clean up our rivers and water supplies.
Whether used for irrigating crops or washing food, the unhealthy concentrations of metals and other minerals in our water supplies present a huge hazard to the public’s health and well-being.
The government must speed the pace of efforts to ensure effluent treatment plants in all industries which dump waste. It must also step up awareness initiatives among farmers and food companies of the need to ensure that run-offs from the use of pesticides do not contaminate the food supply.
Clean water is not a luxury but absolutely vital for all aspects of life. The public needs zero tolerance for pollution of water in order to ensure the safety of the food we eat.