Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA) held a symposium on “Significance of Proper Date Labelling of Manufacturing Food and Review of Budget for Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs” at the BILIA Auditorium on June 2, 2018. Kazi Habibul Awal, Former Senior Secretary, Government of Bangladesh presided over the event while Dr. Shahdeen Malik, Honorary Director, BILIA, gave the welcome address. Advocate Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, General Secretary, Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), was present in the symposium as the designated discussant.
Mr. Shahnewaj, Advocate, Dhaka Judge Court and Research Officer, BILIA, presented a paper titled “Improper Date Labelling of Manufacturing Food: Food Safety and Food Waste Perspectives” which illustrated how improper labelling results in significant food waste and health and safety problems. As the regulatory regime for food labelling is flawed and under-regulated, he emphasised that a significant number of consumers and sellers are confused by different date labelling terms, such as ‘best before’, ‘use by’ and ‘expiry date’. According to him, if consumers understand whether the expiry date indicates safety or quality, they can eat safe food, while preventing wastage of food after the expiry date.
Mr. Mustakimur Rahman, Lecturer, Department of Law, Notre Dame University Bangladesh, presented a paper titled “Budgetary Allocation for the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs”. In his paper, he argued that Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs got a poor budget in terms of its importance within public order and safety category of the government. He emphasised that since ‘law and justice’ plays a crucial role in developing the economy; therefore, there is a relationship between ‘law and justice’ and development. Hence, it is very imperative to see a Law Ministry with adequate financial budget allocated by the government.
Advocate MA Aziz Khan who was present at the symposium made his comments on the date labelling issues regarding food safety making a comparison with the scenario of Canada. He made the comparison from his personal experience which he had while living in Canada. He also mentioned that legal aid facilities are very available there in terms of providing legal advice as well as financial aid for litigation.
Mr. Millat Hossain from Center for Human Rights Movement also shared his research outcomes in relation to the situations of food safety and quality in Bangladesh. Among the contents, he shared one of the major points he made on the ‘Minicut Rice’ available in the markets. According to his view, the kind of rice is not a natural category of rice type. Rather, this is a version of polished rice of other types of rice. To produce this kind of rice, a substantial portion of rice is lost because of the cutting or polished process.
Mr. Kazi Habibul Awal in his concluding remarks as the chair of the symposium said that the one major challenge in Bangladesh regarding the date labelling process on food would be ‘waste management’. In terms of the economic condition and developing status of Bangladesh compared to the developed countries like Canada and Australia, it would very difficult for Bangladesh to deal with the waste management and its consequences on public health. Additionally, in response to the Minicut Rice comment, he stated that the issue can easily be solved under the legal proceedings by raising the issue before the court and upon justifying the matter the availability of such kind of rice can be banned. Furthermore, on the budget allocation issue, he stated that demanding more budget would not provide justice, if it cannot serve the people who are seeking justice.
THE EVENT WAS COVERED BY SABRINA HASAN, RESEARCH OFFICER, BANGLADESH INSTITUTE OF LAW AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (BILIA).