The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) has found evidence of adulteration in all types of unpackaged soybean and palm oil being sold in the domestic market.
BFSA collected samples of edible oil from eight divisions. After testing them in the laboratory, it did not find any pure loose or unpackaged soybean or palm oil, BFSA officials told a seminar "Food safety and quality assessment of drum oil sold in the market" on Tuesday.
In its observation, BFSA said the standards of edible oil in the market are not up to the mark, food safety measures are not ensured, hygiene is not maintained, and companies are not maintaining proper packaging and labelling guidelines.
Presenting the keynote speech at the seminar, BFSA Member (Food industry and production) Professor Md Abdul Alim said 65% of the edible oil sold in the market is loose or unpackaged. Soybean oil is sold by mixing it with palm oil or vice versa.
He noted that the measurement of fatty acid in the oil is also wrong and evidence of cottonseed oil has also been found in some samples.
The BFSA study also found that oil drums are not food graded and properly cleaned, which might make products rancid, even though it is compulsory to use food graded drums.
Commerce Ministry IIT Wing Additional Secretary AHM Shafiquzzaman said, "Traders sell palm oil in the name of soybean oil as palm oil is cheaper. The Commerce Ministry and Industries Ministry are working to solve the problem."
Companies do not follow compulsory vitamin A fortification guide
Edible oil refinery and marketing companies are yet to follow the compulsory vitamin A fortification guidelines properly.
Citing the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, food safety authorities said they have found 87% vitamin A fortification in plastic bottled oil while it is 47.33% in unpackaged oil.
The BFSA study has found that amid the mismanagement of vitamin A fortification, Basundhara soybean oil declares vitamin A, B, D and E fortification on labels whereas the BFSA said there is no scope of having vitamin B in oil as it does not mix with oil. As such, it is deceit and therefore a punishable offence.
In the case of some companies, there are labels of vitamin fortification but without mentioning the name of the vitamins, which is also a crime.
Representatives of edible oil refining and marketing companies, including City Group, Meghna Group, S Alam Group, etc, present at the programme claimed that Khatunganj and Moulvibazar traders who buy oil from them are responsible for adulterating oil.
They also opined that there is no alternative to introducing packaged oil to overcome the problem.
City Group Advisor Amitav Chakrabarti said, "Almost 40% of the oil we market is packaged. So, those who buy oil from us and repackage it should be monitored."
Industries Ministry Secretary Jakia Sultana said, "We are creating awareness among individuals and traders regarding the issue by mentioning the existing problems. Everyone has to come under packaging. We will not spare anyone after 16 March 2022."
Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said, "Why do people not trust those who import, process and sell? Consumers are ready to pay for products but traders have to win their trust. I do not know whether or not traders and refineries know it or they pretend they do not know."
It may be mentioned that almost 26.50 lakh tonnes of oil are produced in the country, of which 22 lakh tonnes are used as edible oil and the rest is used in industries. Almost 95% of the demand in the country is met by imports, mainly from Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia.