Special Correspondent: Addition of vitamin A in edible oil was made mandatory in 2013. The government also made a law in this regard. According to that law, companies are not allowed to market any edible oil without adding vitamin A. But the reality is different. Still many edible oils are marketed without vitamins. Almost a decade after the legislation, 47 percent of opened oils and 13 percent of bottled oils do not match the presence of vitamins (January 2018-July 2021 estimates).
Considering all aspects, the Ministry of Industry announced the ban on the sale of open soybeans in the market from July 31 and open palm oil from December 31. But since July there has been a lot of instability in the oil prices in the world market. Due to its effect, the edible oil market in the country also became unstable. That is why the implementation of this decision is stopped. However, the open sale of both oils (palm and soybean) will be closed on December 31, 2022.
Why vitamin ‘A’ in edible oil?
In 2013, the government passed the Vitamin A Enrichment in Edible Oil Act. According to this law, the edible oil has to be enriched with vitamin A in the prescribed amount. There are also penalties if vitamins are not present in the oil. Keeping in mind the nutritional development of the consumer, the government took the initiative to mix vitamin A which is beneficial for human health. Health experts say that vitamins are necessary to meet the nutritional needs of the body. The first in the vitamin classification is ‘A’. Lack of which can cause various physical complications.
Rubaiya Parveen, a clinical dietician and nutritionist at Faraji Hospital in Dhaka, told that vitamin A is the most important element for children’s survival, normal growth and eyesight. Vitamin ‘A’ plays a helpful role in the normal vision of children’s eyes and normal growth of the body. In addition, it builds immunity against various diseases.
After giving birth, it is important to have nutritious food in the diet when the mother is breastfeeding. Vitamin A must be present in these nutritious foods. Besides, vitamin ‘A’ can be given to children with khichuri or cooking instead of giving it directly. For example, carrot or a little oil can be used with khichuri so that the child can take it very easily.
He also said, “If children are deprived of vitamin ‘A’ food, various diseases can occur in their body. For example, night blindness, eye problems or decreased eyesight. Vitamin A plays a major role in preventing cancer. Vitamin supplements with oil or added food helps children to meet the deficiency of vitamin A.
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Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) is responsible for monitoring whether vitamins are added to edible oil. Addition of vitamins to edible oil is also mandatory under BSTI Act. Therefore, if a company wants to refine, import or supply oil, it tests the edible oil and gives a license to sell edible oil rich in vitamin A. So far 117 institutions have received this license.
On the other hand, as part of regular surveillance, 75 samples are collected and tested every month from different areas of the country. Among these, there is a provision to take legal action in addition to mourning the company or organization if the vitamin level in the oil is low or high.
Vitamin A enrichment levels in Bangladesh are set at 15 to 30 ppm according to studies conducted by WHO, FAO and National Academy of Sciences. BSTI as well as Ministry of Home Affairs also scheduled the Act as ‘Mobile Courts Act, 2009’ on 3 April 2016. Although in the country, it is not seen that any company is fined or brought under the law for not mixing vitamins.
In this regard, Deputy Director (CM) of BSTI Riazul Haque told, “Bottled oil has adequate levels of vitamins. About 99 percent are correct. If there is a problem or two, they are mourned. But the problem is the open oil in the drum. Even if there is a problem in them, it cannot be detected. Because they do not have the name and address of the manufacturer. That is why open oil sales are being stopped. After that, this problem will not be too much.
Vitamin deficiency rate is high in open oil 65 percent of edible oil in the country is sold in open or loose form. Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) has evidence of adulteration in these edible oils. There is also information on vitamin deficiencies in bottled oils.
Analyzing the vitamin test data of BSTI for the past three and a half years (January 2018 to July 2021), BFSA says that 520 PET bottles of edible oil were tested and the vitamin levels were found to be correct in 457. That is, 13 percent of the bottles did not have the correct amount of vitamins.
However, the alarming information is that 393 open oil samples were tested, out of which 207 samples contained vitamins. Not in 186. In other words, 47.33 percent of the oil did not contain adequate amounts of vitamin A.
BFSA member (food industry and production) Professor Dr. Md. Abdul Alim told that vitamins are not being added to open oil. Due to this open sales vitamin reduction is taking place in light and sun heat. That’s why consumers are not getting vitamins when they buy them. As a result, bottled oil is not good in that case.
He said open oil is now a big problem. Not just vitamins, but soybean and palm oil are sold under different names, but no oil has been tested as soybean only or palm oil only. All are soybean and palm oil blends. They contain vitamins like fat (fatty acids) and quality problems.
Dr. Md. Abdul Alim said, due to the instability in the current oil market, these control operations are not being carried out. Then the market will become more volatile. Things are relaxed.
Meanwhile, a senior officer of an oil refining and marketing company said on condition of anonymity that all oil from mills is marketed with vitamins. However, it is not pure in the mixture of palm and soybean when it comes to the wholesale market. The traders of Khatunganj and Moulvibazar who sell oil in drums are responsible for this adulteration. Also many companies are buying oil in bulk and re-marketing the oil in new packaging under their brand name, there is a problem with their oil.
It is known that the country has a demand of about 2.2 million tons of edible oil every year. 95 percent of this oil is import dependent. Crude oil and oilseeds are imported mainly from Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia, which are refined and supplied to the market by a handful of companies.
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