September 23, 2020, 11:32 am


SAM

Published:
2019-12-30 16:28:52 BdST

Turmeric contaminationGovt set to limit import of lead chromate


FT ONLINE

The government has decided to take measures to curb contamination of lead in turmeric, officials concerned said.

To this end, they said, the commerce ministry will take necessary steps to control the import of lead chromate and use of such harmful metal in the country.

The decision came at a meeting held at the commerce ministry recently with its additional secretary Md Shakhawat Hossain in the chair.

The meeting suggested the formation of a committee, led by deputy commissioner (DC) and Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) concerned, comprising representatives from Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh Food Safety Authority and other agencies concerned.

The committee will sit with licensed turmeric traders to resolve the existing lead problem, according to the minutes of the meeting.

Additional secretary Shakhawat Hossain said, "We will send a letter to the cabinet division, seeking approval for forming a committee in this regard soon."

He added: "We will issue gazette notification after getting approval from the division. We will take measures in this regard step by step."

Against the backdrop of detecting harmful lead compounds in turmeric, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has asked the authorities concerned to restrict the export of widely-consumed spice.

It suggested imposing a complete ban until completing proper testing by the appropriate authorities or limiting the export to only the lots those are certified by the government authorities concerned.

The PMO also asked the commerce ministry to take necessary measures based on a confidential report prepared by the government that found the presence of lead beyond the acceptable limit for human health, particularly children.

It instructed the law enforcement agencies and food department to take steps to prevent the mix of harmful lead in the spice item, according to the report obtained by the FE.

Following a recent study jointly conducted by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) and Stanford University, USA, the PMO recommended taking next course of steps through the collection of turmeric samples from different production areas as well as processing factories.

The joint study found that some spice processors and traders were using lead to brighten the colour of turmeric powder, causing serious health concerns.

The study, published in the Environmental Research journal on September 23 last, was conducted on samples collected from nine districts where a huge amount of turmeric is produced. In seven districts out of nine, harmful lead chromate was found in turmeric powder.

According to the documents of the PMO, chemical analysis was conducted on 524 samples of turmeric, pigments, dust, and soil which were collected from different areas across the country.

The research result found that lead level in collected samples is about 500 times higher than statutory levels. On an average, 690 micrograms of lead existed per gram of turmeric, the document showed. The acceptable level of lead in Bangladesh is 05 micrograms per decilitre.

Lead is one kind of toxic substance that is particularly dangerous for pregnant mothers. It can cause undersized growth and birth fault in unborn babies.

It may lead to damage important parts of human body including the brain and nervous systems and may cause heart and pulmonary diseases, according to the documents.

Bangladesh, the fifth-largest turmeric producing country in the world, supplies 3.0 percent of global turmeric demand and it is gradually increasing. India alone produces over 80 percent of turmeric in the world.

Bangladesh produced over 0.182 million tonnes of turmeric in the last fiscal year, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension.

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