National health and productivity in danger

Melamine, a chemical for different industrial application, can be deadly for human bodies should the same enter human bodies through any means. But countrymen awoke sometime ago to read banner headlines in daily newspapers that the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) detected — through laboratory tests of samples– melamine in eight popular brands of milk powder in the country which were largely imported. So far, only recently some milk powder of Chinese brands were suspected and restrictions were imposed on them. But now the knowledge that melamine is present in other long-standing popular brands such as Red Cow and Dano, having Australian and European origins respectively, came as very worrisome news to consumers of milk powders. They must have felt deeply annoyed from knowing that they have been taking such milk powder daily without any idea that the same contained a carcinogenic substance that could cause cancer and other fatal diseases shortening their lives.
The milk powder related news only put fresh and sharp focus on how consumers in Bangladesh are forced to consume health hazarding substances all around them and all the time. A short list would make any health-conscious person shudder at the thought of what they have been consuming : fishes and milk with formalin in them which is used to keep human copses fresh but which, on entering human bodies, can produce lethal effects such as cancer and liver diseases ; burnt Mobil in cooking oil ; pesticides with toxic effects sprayed liberally on fruits and vegetables ; colouring agents in foods which are really dyes used in textile industries and can severely undermine human health ; urea used in Muri (puffed rice) for frying to make the same look shinier ; adulteration of chilli and turmeric powders with brick dust ; catering of rotten eggs and meats in restaurants ; marketing of fishes bred in sewer lagoons with the prospects of such fishes that acquire different lethal bacteria from human excrement from getting passed on to new human victims ; calcium carbide used for artificial fruit ripening when eating such fruits can produce a host of diseases on humans. The list can be made a far longer one. But that is not possible within the limitations of this write-up. However, it should be enough to give one an idea of what sorts of poisons are being catered in abundance in the daily foods of millions and millions of Bangladeshis and they’re paying an awful price in the form of various sicknesses as a result.
Medicines are meant to save the most precious of possessions to humans, their lives. But medicines are noted to be spurious also in some cases in Bangladesh. Media reports as well as the actions of law enforcement bodies many times showed up the unabated activities of producers of spurious medicines and related products. So-called antibiotic capsules were found and seized that contained nothing of the stated antibiotic powders in the coatings but things like talcum powder and flour. No wonder that a large number of people have been complaining about not getting cured after getting treated with such fake medicines. Others are not even that lucky. They die from taking sub-standard or completely fake medical products such as from using bogus saline. Newspaper reports appeared time and again about persons who died from pushing such saline unknowingly in their bodies.
It has reached a state in such very unconscionable activities on the part of profit mongers at the cost of human lives, that no government worth the name can hold back or should hold back from cracking down immediately and on a sustainable basis against the doers of such crimes. The government cannot also complain that they are not legally empowered to go after the offenders because the existing laws in this regard already provide for capital punishment or death sentence and long-term rigorous imprisonment for such crimes. But we see the laws hardly enforced or appropriately so for their deterrent value. If only, some tough punishments are meted out on the basis of the laws, then surely the same would start discouraging the offenders in significant number. For example, notable improvements in food catering was witnessed two years ago when the authorities at that time started a drive against adulterated foods and sustained it. The drive has petered out since then and this is probably the main reason for the full-scale returns of these crimes. Therefore, the government needs to do the minimum of restarting that drive with mobile courts, sustain it and enforce the prevailing laws in a truly tough manner against the health hazarders for benefiting from the deterrent value of the same.
A seminar was held last year in Dhaka that was participated by the country’s best know doctors and specialists. They spoke on the occasion about the alarmingly high rise in dangerous diseases like cancer, liver diseases, skin diseases and other ailments in the country. More significantly, they linked this dangerous trend to consumption of unsafe foods and medicines. They expressed the fear that national health and productivity was under a great stress from these factors . It was also speculated that the health and productivity of newborns or the coming generations would be put to great risks if these health hazarding activities go on without a check. So, it is imperative for the government to act and act decisively in this area, starting immediately.


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