Adulterated foods aplenty in street iftar shops
Low and middle income people are running the risk of serious health hazards as street vendors are selling adulterated and unhygienic iftar items in the capital.
During visits to different parts of the capital, most of the street vendors admitted to this correspondent that they fry iftar items in loose soybean oil usually stored in filthy drums. They also buy turmeric, chili and cumin powder at much lower prices from the traders, and 60 percent of the items is usually rotten.
The unhygienic places where the iftar items are cooked are filled with germs that could cause diarrhoea and typhoid fever. Deadly germs contaminate the street foods through air, dust, flies, dirty hands and nails of the cooks.
Renowned public health expert and nutritionist Dr Khursheed Jahan said that fried peas is a popular iftar item and this food is said to be quite safe, depending on the quality of cooking oil and the level of hygiene maintained.
“Beguni, another popular iftar item, often contains harmful colour pigment applied to attract consumers and different dying colors are often mixed to brighten this item, which are very harmful for health,” she added.
Ruhul Amin, assistant professor of Institute of Nutrition and Food Science of Dhaka University, said in every Ramadan, street iftar items become popular in the city as a seasonal business.
To make the food crispy, it is alleged that used engine oil is used for frying foods at most of these stalls and restaurants. The use of toxic chemicals and agents in food items is also rampant, he said.
“Besides, puffed rice tainted with urea, used for a whiter look, is available not only at these stalls, but throughout the city,” he added.
“Majority of these food sold on the streets are not good for health, especially in an empty stomach after fasting,” he said, adding that most of the food items have very little nutrition value as these are prepared with only pea flour, onion and spices which are mixed in unhygienic way.
The nutritionist also said the cooking oil, which is substandard in the first place, is used several times for frying different iftar items. Reheating the oil gradually increases its acidity and it eventually becomes toxic.
A consultant physician of Dhaka Medical College Hospital said, “One of our favourite items, Haleem, is also not free of health hazards. Rotten meat is being used in Haleem, which causes different health complications.”
He urged the government to conduct drive against the dishonest vendors to prevent sales of unhygienic foods in the name of iftar items.
When contacted, Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) Director General Iqramul Haque said they have been conducting drive extensively against formalin-laced foods, as this harmful chemical is used widely in many food items in the country.
“Steps will be taken to conduct drive against unsafe street foods during Ramadan,” he added.