THE presence of microplastics in packaged and unpackaged sugar sold in the local market is of great concern. A research article, published in the journal titled Science of the Total Environment on May 10, 2022, indicates that approximately 343.7 black, pink, blue and brown microplastic particles are on average present in one kilogram of sugar, available on the market in Dhaka. The article also states that people in Bangladesh consume about 10.2 tons of microplastics each year through sugar, with per capita sugar consumption being over six kilograms. Besides the direct consumption of microplastics via sugar, people are also exposed to the negative impact of microplastics via the consumption of popular sugar-rich items. Ongoing research has analyzed, as one researcher says, samples of sugar produced from sugarcane and found microplastic particles smaller than 300 micrometers that may have entered the sugar during packaging and the transformation. In addition to microplastics that act as a secondary vector for many diseases, sugar samples could also contain nanoplastics. Microplastics and nanoplastics are thought to have serious impacts on humans.
The results are concerning, especially when food safety is severely compromised due to lax regulations and weak institutional capacity to ensure food standards and testing. The findings also call for further research into the extent of sugar adulteration and the intensity of the impact of such adulteration on humans. It is also necessary to examine the state of foods high in sugar, especially drinks, cold cuts and confectionery items. While other countries are very proactive in ensuring safe and quality food, Bangladesh lags far behind. The Bangladesh Institute of Standards and Testing has repeatedly made headlines for its inadequacy in testing and ensuring food safety and other irregularities. The agency would also lack the ability to detect antibiotics, bacteria, antibiotics and detergents in many food products. Hundreds of consumer goods, including a large number of food products, produced locally or imported, thus arrive on the market without any standard testing or certification. Many items can come to market because they are not on the Standards and Testing Institution’s “watch list.” Such a lack of food quality and safety assurance is believed to have contributed to a significant increase in non-communicable diseases.
The authorities must, in such a situation, take seriously the conclusions of the current research and take measures to guarantee the marketing of pure sugar and foods rich in sugar. The government must also properly equip the Standards and Testing Institute and enforce food laws to ensure food safety. Above all, the Standards and Testing Institution must subject all consumer goods, produced or imported in any diversified manner, to the requirements of the mandatory standards.