Elevating Food Safety in Bangladesh
This post was written by Jessica Mudjitaba-Fernandez, an international program specialist at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
With 165 million people, Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world. Food contamination and exposure to food hazards have major implications on food security in Bangladesh. This problem persists throughout the food chain due to food adulteration, pesticide residues, and microbiological contamination, among other challenges. However, in recent years, Bangladesh has taken great strides to improve its regulatory systems for food safety to improve market access and participation in the international trading system, but also improve access to safe food for local consumers.
On February 2, 2020, Bangladesh celebrated National Food Safety Day across the country with a pledge to ensure safe food for all. In 2018, the Government of Bangladesh designated this day as a way to demonstrate its commitment to ensure safe food to save lives and safeguard the health of the people.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are working with the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) to support both government and private sector producer associations in improving the food safety policy and regulatory environment based on international science-based standards. In recent years this work has included:
- USDA/USAID, alongside Kansas State University, has hosted a series of food industry engagement meetings, focused on defining food safety challenges and opportunities with participants from industry, academia, and government. This co-creation approach contributed to the development process of the Training, Education and Communication Wing in the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority. Identified topics have included Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), food safety management system requirements, and innovations in food safety.
- To facilitate Bangladesh’s international food trade, a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)-approved 3rd party assurance program for collaborating companies was introduced by USDA. The GFSI is an overarching body that provides globally-recognized product certification for food safety, which is required by some companies for their suppliers. To date, eleven companies on Bangladesh have received certifications. The practices embedded within GFSI support improved food safety practices within these companies and their supply chains, benefiting both local and global consumers.
- The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority is working to increase the agency’s human capacity, including recruitment and effective training of newly hired inspectors. USDA/USAID provides support to BFSA to strengthen the institutional structure of its food safety regulatory system through the facilitation of training programs to the agency’s new recruits. To date, more than 250 regulators and practitioners have been trained in basic to advanced food safety topics including food hygiene, use of food additives, sampling, testing, analysis, food labeling, toxins, contaminants, and risk-based inspections.
- BFSA collaborates with government agencies such as the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute, Ministry of Finance, Department of Agriculture, and Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation to harmonize food safety standards in compliance with WTO requirements. Many institutions and agencies in the country have their own standards, making it difficult for the private sector to comply. Harmonizing standards will improve the government’s role in food safety oversight. USDA supported the BFSA in this initiative by assisting in forming a technical committee to determine the nutrition standards (Acceptable Daily Intake and Recommended Dietary Allowance) of free fatty acids (FFAs) in food products. The new technical committee was further assisted by facilitating a stakeholder meeting to set the national standards on free fatty acids in processed foods. This nutritional measure and labeling will benefit the Bangladeshi population and the exportation of processed food products.
These efforts have improved the knowledge of food safety principles and practices as a means of improving food security, consumer health, and increasing productivity by providing greater access to global markets. As Bangladesh continues to make progress in achieving food security, food safety is more than ever vital to the rise of a healthy population and growing economy.