The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) is going to take action against widely known smokeless tobacco product Hakim Pury Zarda after detecting heavy metals like lead, cadmium and chromium in it.
The BFSA will order Hakim Pury to recall their products from market. Moreover, a lawsuit will be lodged with the food safety court against the brand on Monday.
Two months ago, the BFSA collected samples of 22 varieties of smokeless tobacco (Jorda), catechu (Khoyer) and burnt tobacco powder (Gul).
Lab tests revealed heavy metals including lead, cadmium and chromium residues in the samples.
Jorda produced by 13 companies including Hakim Pury, Khoyer of six companies and Gul of three companies were flagged by the Safe Food Authority in the first test.
Subsequently, the authority decided to remove all products of Hakim Pury Zarda from the market. They will also conduct mobile courts and seize the products if found being sold.
Syeda Sarwar Jahan, chairman of the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, told The Business Standard they ran the tests twice, on two sets of samples. "The result was as bad as it was in the first test. The heavy metals found are too dangerous to public health."
The colouring used by Hakim Pury Zarda is the source of those heavy metals, according to the Safe Food Authority. The colouring, usually imported by industrial units, is used as furniture varnish.
At a press conference on October 31, the BFSA said they found the hazardous substances in 22 samples, ranging from 2 milligram to 11.2 milligram in one kilogram of the products.
Per kilogram of Hakim Pury products have 26 milligram of lead, 0.95 milligram cadmium and 1.65 milligram of chromium, according to the food safety authority.
Owner of the company Haji Mohammad Kaus Mia launched protests soon after the press conference. He published a number of advertisements on national dailies claiming no toxiic substances are used to make Hakim Pury products.
He claimed that the samples tested by the Safe Food Authority were fake, not real Hakim Pury Zarda. He, however, neither sent any protest note to the Safe Food Authority nor sat with the authority officials.
Rather, the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority contacted with the company and collected fresh samples from their factory. The samples collected for the second time also showed presence of lead, chromium and cadmium like the first test.
Dr Shakhawat Hossain, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery physician of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said consumption of tobacco products with betel leaf for long may end up in fatal diseases like cancer and chronic liver diseases.
"Women can give birth to autistic children due to consumption of lead adulterated smokeless tobacco," said the doctor, adding they are now getting more patients with mouth cancer.
Haji Mohammad Kaus Mia, owner of the Hakim Pury Zarda, is a top taxpayer who has been awarded 14 times by the National Board of Revenue.
The products flagged by the BSFA on October 31 were: Gila Khoyer, Teer Marke Khoyer, Malai Khoyer, Ontora Khoyer, Kalo Pathor Bulk Khoyer, Sada Bulk Khoyer, Egol Gul, Mostafa Gul, Shahjada Gul, Roton Jorda, Hakim Pury Zarda, Gurudev Jorda, Shahjadi Jorda (Nirmal), Mohiuddin Jorda, Dhaka Jorda, Mokimpur Jorda, Shahi Hira Jorda, Jafrani Jorda, Shahjadi Jorda (Alam), Bou Shahjadi Jorda and Chandpuri Jorda.