Various food products do not have BSTI standards, the company is in trouble

There are no specific statistics on how many types of food products are available in the country. However, it is believed that the amount will be several thousand. But Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) mandatory quality certificate covered 273 products. Less than half of these are food products. Others are textiles, chemicals and electrical technology products. BSTI Certification Marks (CM) license is required for the manufacturer, packer or importer to market the product.

However, taking BSTI’s CM license for marketing any other food products outside of this mandatory list is voluntary. That is, an organization can accept this license if it wants, there is no problem even if it does not. Therefore no obligation has been placed in the BSTI Act. Only the Bangladesh Standard or BDS formulated by BSTI should be followed in the case of preparation of food products.

But recently complications have arisen with several products. Companies are in trouble by marketing products that do not have BSTI standards or policies. However, there was no opportunity to get their product approved.

What does the law say?

Nowhere in the BSTI and the Safe Food Act does it say that products outside the CM license cannot be marketed without approval. However, if any kind of health risk is proved after marketing the product, then these two authorities can take action accordingly.

That is, a product does not start production after getting a license. Compulsory quality certification will be covered after product quality testing on the basis of formulation of product standards after marketing in the market. Then based on the application of the companies, the quality certificate and management system certificate will be given after testing the products. That has been happening for a long time.
BSTI cannot license any product prior to formulation of standards. In this regard, the deputy director of the organization. Riazul Haque told Jago News, ‘We cannot approve any product if it does not fall under the compulsory product. There is no obstacle in marketing it. BSTI has nothing to do with the law.’

Riazul Haque said, ‘BSTI gives two types of licences. A CM license, which the company is obliged to take. There are 273 such products. Another voluntary license (Voluntary License). There are a total of 4,300 such products, if any company shows interest in taking this license, we give that license. It is not mandatory.’

On the other hand, Bangladesh Safe Food Authority is another organization that oversees food products in the country. The organization’s Safe Food Act, 2013 also nowhere says that food cannot be marketed unless it is certified. Rather, in section 13 of the Act, the authorities have been asked to determine the quality of food if there are no guidelines. However, the authority has not determined any food standards yet.

Najma Begum, a member of the Safe Food Authority (Law and Policy) told Jago News, “Actually, it is not possible to quickly determine the value of thousands of food products in the market. Again they cannot be closed. We check for those that we think are health risks. Action is taken only if it proves harmful after testing. Besides, there is no problem with the rest.’

So what is the solution?

According to those concerned, as the days go by, the list of food products in the country is getting bigger. Where it is impossible to immediately determine the value of a product. Determining the value of a product has to take into account the global context. On the other hand, we have to coordinate many things including the country’s weather, customers. Export products have to comply with international standards (ISO). For reasons that require a lot of judgment and analysis by standards setting committees. It is also necessary to test food products and their various ingredients.

When such is the case, the competence of BSTI, the standards setting body, is also questioned. For a long time the organization has been suffering from lack of manpower, technologically advanced laboratories and skilled researchers. That is why the list of compulsory products of Bangladesh is very small compared to other countries of the world.

In this regard, Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) President Golam Rahman told Jago News that all products that are essential and important to the public should be under the supervision of BSTI, but that has not happened. The capacity of the organization needs to be further enhanced. Because it is the only quality control agency in the country.

CAB president said, ‘People are very worried about the quality of food and daily use products. BSTI should look at their quality. If all products were brought under standard, all problems would be solved. But that is impossible for BSTI in the current context.’

According to BSTI sources, BSTI has 76 committees for standardizing products of public importance. They recommend making various important products mandatory. Besides, BSTI recommends mandating various new products after understanding the market situation. Then BSTI’s Governing Council finalizes them and Ministry of Law through Ministry of Industries confirms those mandatory lists.

That is, the marketing of a product will not be stopped because the quality of a product is not fixed. BSTI is responsible for determining product standards based on importance and market demand.

BSTI’s Quality Wing Director Saidul Islam said, if the product is not in the mandatory list, the companies will produce, package and market according to the existing standard (BDS). There is no obstacle for BSTI.

What the companies are saying

In the last few years, the well-established companies of the country have faced problems with the marketing of several products. Licensing of those products was not mandatory and some products were not even ‘BDS’. The court recently issued arrest warrants against some company owners for allegedly selling electrolyte drinks. After this, the question arises, if there is no opportunity to get approval, will those products stop being marketed?

The companies say that diversification of products is necessary to survive in domestic and foreign markets. Compared to other countries in the world, Bangladesh’s export products are less diverse, due to which the country is lagging behind in exports. On the other hand, foreign companies are taking over the domestic market of Bangladesh. For which the long process and lack of capacity in the formulation of standards in the country is a major obstacle.

Meghna Group of Industries Senior Assistant General Manager Taslim Shahriar told Jago News, ‘We are facing a big problem with licensing. It is natural that the company will bring new products, innovation will happen. But the government is not able to fix its standards, it is their failure.

Taslim Shahriar said, ‘A lot of new imported products are coming. They are not closing. The problem is when we are going to invent something good. The government should look at this matter with importance.

A senior official of the company, who did not wish to be named, said, “BSTI does not have standards for many products. So there is no approval option, how do we get approval? Earlier when we tried to get approval for a product, they (BSTI) told us, ‘You launch, when the criteria for this category is developed, I will give approval.’ But later we had to face problems by marketing this product.”
“As there is ‘ambiguity’ in our law, some officials of the legislative bodies have a tendency to act against the companies because of its preoccupation,” the official said.

General Secretary of Bangladesh Agro-Processors Association (Bapa) Iktadul Haque told Jago News, ‘New and diversified products are encouraged all over the world. But bringing a new product to the market in Bangladesh has to face a lot of trouble with its license. Then there are many more troubles.’

Iqtadul Haque, demanding to eliminate the long process in the formulation of standards, said, ‘There can be a system that in the case of new products, the materials that are declared to be used in the manufacture of products, if they are not harmful, an initial permission should be arranged. Later the final standard needs to be formulated after testing the product.’

Iqtadul Haque said, ‘Frequently new foreign products are being imported, there is no problem with that. But Bangladeshi products are facing problems in this way, so that local entrepreneurs are suffering a lot. The domestic market is being taken over by foreign companies.

What’s up with electrolyte drinks?

On May 14, the court issued an arrest warrant against the owners of the company for selling five types of electrolyte drinks in the market. Kamrul Hasan, Safe Food Inspector of Dhaka South City Corporation filed a case against these companies in the Pure Food Court, alleging that these companies were selling the drinks without taking a license.
According to the accused companies, license could not be obtained due to lack of specific criteria for electrolyte products in BSTI. They also tried to get permission for such drinks. Most of the companies that did not get the license later applied to BSTI for formulation of product standards.

A senior official of SMC Group, which sells electrolyte drinks in the market, said to the media, ‘How can we get approval in BSTI, where there is no option to get approval for that product? We tried for approval. But I didn’t get it.’

In such a situation, after hearing the case at that time, the pure food court issued an arrest warrant against the owner of those five establishments.

On the other hand, after the incident, BSTI’s technical committee initially approved the draft standard of ‘Electrolyte Drinks (Sports Drinks)’ on May 30. BSTI has sent letters to various institutions and organizations asking for their opinions within June 7 for the final approval of this draft standard as Bangladesh National Standard.

In this regard, Deputy Director of BSTI Riazul Jago told News, ‘Since this product (electrolyte drinks) is new in the market, the criteria of the product was not determined then. Now that it has come up for discussion, its standards are soon to be formulated. That process is going on.’

In such a situation, the companies say that such electrolyte foreign products are being sold in the country for a long time. which are imported. But three years ago, it began production on a small scale in the country, which was introduced in the summer of last year. Then it went into production by several companies. Those who are now involved in the case. Although foreign drinks are still in the market.