In recent decades, Bangladesh has recorded one of the fastest prolonged reductions in child underweight and stunting prevalence in recorded history. Child stunting fell from almost 57% in 1997 to 36% in 2014. Successive governments have made strong commitments to end malnutrition, by mainstreaming nutrition into public health and family planning services.
Strategies to create good nutrition for all people, are now being incorporated in different sectoral policies, such as the agriculture sector. The importance of food safety is captured in the National Food Policy which aims to “ensure an adequate and stable supply of safe and nutritious food”. In 2014, Bangladesh made strong commitments to improving nutrition through the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action. The National Nutrition Policy 2015 aims to improve the nutritional status of the people, prevent and control malnutrition, and accelerate national development through raising the standard of living.
In 2017, Bangladesh organised a meeting to track its progress on the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2). The meeting discussed strengthening the Bangladesh National Nutrition Council (BNNC) to coordinate and collaborate nutrition activities, address the rising trend of obesity and non-communicable disease, and the inadequate resource allocation for nutrition, amongst other issues. (FAO 2018).
The role of food safety in Food and Nutrition Security
Food safety is a significant threat not only to public health in Bangladesh but also to income, trade and nutrition. While no consumer deliberately eats unsafe food, people unknowingly challenge their health by eating food that carries serious risks. Harmful bacteria and chemicals may be present in food but are invisible to the naked eye. In Bangladesh, the National Taskforce on Food Adulteration has flagged unsafe food as a serious risk factor for malnutrition and public health. The use of pesticides and formalin, for example, is still a crucial problem in Bangladesh.
Moving forward, consumers will play a critical role in creating the demand for safe and nutritious foods.
SNV’s contribution to increase food safety in Bangladesh
SNV in Bangladesh is implementing a European Commission funded project ‘Improving consumer awareness and access to certified safe tomato and mango products in Bangladesh’ in cooperation with Centre of Excellence for Agro Food Skills (CEAFS) and the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB).
The project contributes to greater consumer confidence in domestically produced processed horticultural products and improved food safety for the domestically processed horticultural products. The project also promotes inclusive business development in the fruit and vegetable processing industry.
Target groups of the project include the supply chain partners in the processed mango and tomato supply chains, including smallholder growers, traders, processors and retailers. Together these two sub-sectors comprise over 80% of the domestic fruit and vegetable processing industry.
Stakeholders in the supply chain will sign a covenant, with the support of BFSA, in which they will agree to uphold the newly introduced food safety standards and practices. They will also agree to monitor and verify these standards in their operations. Through this project, SNV will be supporting the Government of Bangladesh to carry out its activities to ensure safe food for all consumers.
Working with the Bangladesh government to highlight our joint efforts
The regional SAFANSI roundtable "Putting the Lens on the Consumer", that took place 25 and 26 June in Colombo, gathered representatives from the public and private sectors, international donors, and civil society. During the event stakeholders discussed how consumers interact with food systems, how markets affect their dietary preferences and consumption, and how government policies can enable or distort nutrition-sensitive food markets.
At the event, SNV together with the Chairman of the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority highlighted the importance of food safety and nutrition during a joint side-session.
More information on the event is available on the Worldbank website.