Formalin-free Kitchen Market : INITIATIVE instant hit

Buyers throng market to get non-adulterated items
The Malibagh kitchen market in the capital has presumably become the centre of attention since it was announced formalin free last week. Customers from faraway places in the city now throng the bazaar to buy different items, especially fish. Their enthusiasm is apparent as other markets have not taken any such move against harmful formalin that is widely used as preservative in food items in the country.
Commerce Minister GM Quader announced the market as formalin free on September 19. The initiative was taken by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and
Industry (FBCCI) as formalin is dangerous for health.
The FBCCI has a plan to launch the drive in other city kitchen markets in phases and declare the capital formalin free in two months.
“I have come here from New Eskaton to buy fish as the traders have declared Malibagh kitchen market as formalin free,” said Jamal Ahmed, a retired government official,
who set foot in the market after several years.
The fish appear chemicals free as most traders in the market have stopped selling imported fish such as rui, katla, mrigel and other species, Jamal observed.
“We strictly monitor the market so that no trader can sell fish or other perishable items without having those checked by a detector,” said Shamim Bhuiyan, general
secretary of Malibagh Market Traders Cooperatives Ltd.
“Now we check fish by a sophisticated formalin detector at the entry point of the market from 6:00am to 10:00am every day,” Bhuiyan added.
No-one is allowed to sell the fish if formalin is detected in those, he said, adding, the formalin detector can check around 100 fish in every ten minutes.
The move came at a time when food adulteration runs rampant in the country.
Many sellers spray their fish with formalin, which is usually used for preservation of tissues. It makes the fish stiff and keeps those look fresh for long.
Almost everything — from vegetables, milk, beverages, sweetmeats, ice cream to spices — is adulterated now. There is almost no-one who can escape the grave health
hazards nowadays.
Misuse of formalin has not been reduced in the country although formalin import declined in last fiscal year.
According to data from the National Board of Revenue, formalin import declined by 23.8 percent to 205 tonnes in fiscal 2011-12 compared to the previous fiscal.
The apex trade body FBCCI has trained up four staff of Malibagh Market Traders Cooperatives Ltd to operate the Tk 1.35-lakh detector smoothly.
“We check every fish except hilsa through the detector,” said Mostafa Kamal, one of the four operators.
He said they often find formalin in imported fish — rui, katla and mrigel — and different species of sea fish. Besides, they also find formalin in the fish that
usually come from distant areas such as Khulna, Rajshahi and Satkhira.
Kamal said the machine has detected formalin level from 2ppm up to 14ppm during the last six days, which is dangerous for health.
“We did not allow sale of those fish in the market,” added Kamal, who is also joint secretary of the Cooperatives.
The traders say they now procure fish from suppliers in small quantities after becoming sure those are not mixed with formalin.
“Many new customers are now coming up to buy formalin-free fish. So, I now procure fish from Karwan Bazar kitchen market in small quantities so that I can sell out
those fish in a day,” said Mohammad Babul, one of the 62 fish traders of the market.
Fourteen traders have however stopped business after the announcement of formalin-free market as they used to sell imported fish, said Bhuiyan.
Traders now have to be more cautious about selling fish thanks to the use of a sophisticated machine, said Babul, who has been selling fish in the market for over 30
years.
Babul has however expressed satisfaction with the formalin detector. “We should not sell chemicals-mixed items as those might harm our children,” he said.
The announcement of the formalin-free market has already attracted a huge number of new customers and also boosted sales. “We get 40 percent new customers and are
selling Tk 14 lakh per day, which was hovering between Tk 8 to Tk 10 lakh a week ago,” informed Bhuiyan.
“We have so far got a good response from the customers and traders as many people are now going to Malibagh to buy chemicals-free fish,” said FBCCI Director Helal
Uddin.
Helal is the key initiator to launch an FBCCI project titled “Formalin and poisonous carbide free ideal market”.
Talking to The Daily Star, Helal said they have detected presence of formalin mostly in imported fish such as rui, katla and mrigel that come from Myanmar and India.
The government should ban import of those species, he said, recommending an embargo on export of all types of fish from Bangladesh due to their shortage in the local
markets.
He said the government should strengthen its monitoring system and suggest to the apex trade body how to implement and expand its project in other city markets.
The FBCCI director said they will supply similar detectors to 15-20 other city markets in October with the help of banks and other private organisations.
“We have a plan to declare Dhaka a formalin-free city within the next two months,” he added.
Backed by finance from the Social Islami Bank Ltd, the FBCCI will soon provide two formalin detectors to Gulshan-2 and New Market kitchen markets.
Helal also urged the government to take preventive action against misuse of formalin at the root level.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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