Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) has asked for public opinion on setting a national standard on the quality of energy drinks in the Bangladeshi market. Stakeholders will have to disclose whether or not they want a national standard to be implemented on the quality of energy drinks by May 10.
However, Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) has said that BSTI has already made a draft of the standards that need to be met and they (BSTI) were supposed to make the standards known to the public and take expert opinion on the matter.
BSTI has said that they will take public opinion and then present it to the experts. But consumer rights workers have expressed concern over manufacturers manipulating public opinion.
As the organization responsible for setting national standards for products in Bangladesh, BSTI examines and gives quality certification. A technical committee comprised of scientists, engineers, university teachers and public and private sector representatives give their opinion on products before the final certification is handed.
Preferring anonymity, a member of the technical committee said: “BSTI wants to give licence to energy drinks. They only posted a partial notice on their website. At a previous meeting, the decision was made to make the draft regarding the quality standards open to the public. The draft had a list of ingredients that should be allowed in energy drinks.
“However, the public does not understand such technical matters. For example, the amount of caffeine in energy drinks in Bangladesh should not be the same as the amount of caffeine put in energy drinks abroad.”
The call for opinion letter posted on the BSTI website said local manufacturers have been formally applying to BSTI for setting and implementing standards on energy drinks for a few years now. But the technical committee has not come to a decision yet about whether a sensitive product like this should have a national standard.
President of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), Golam Rahman said BSTI’s approach on the matter is not at all logical. “This is not a matter of public opinion. It is necessary to formulate national standards on this sensitive product. I do not understand why they are asking the public whether the product should have a national standard or not,” he said.
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CAB official Humayun Kabir, who monitors the activities of BSTI, said: “A technical committee should take decision on the matter. The decision to formulate a standard on such a sensitive product should not be left to the public. ”
Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) member Mahbub Kabir said: “I was present during the meeting. The draft that BSTI wrote was supposed to be made available to the public. The list of ingredients and the permissible amount were supposed to be sent to the experts so they can give their input on the matter.
“There was no talk of taking public opinion on the matter of setting a national standard on the product. I do not think the move by BSTI will result in a correct decision.”
Children's rights activist Gawher Nayeem Wara said: “This is an incorrect approach to the matter. The public do not have any technical information on energy drinks. But they are being asked for their opinion. We need to see what the national standards is actually comprised of. They can then make the information public, but ultimately the experts should give their opinion on it.”
Institute of Public Health’s Assistant Analyst Arefin Rob said: “The public are not food analysts. They do not have enough information or expertise to give an opinion on the matter. If the public really knew what ingredients go into making energy drinks, they would not drink this at all.”
BSTI Deputy Director Nilufer Haque said: “Any stakeholder can give their opinion on the matter. After the public gives their opinion, the matter will be presented to the experts. The experts will give their opinion after assessing every angle.”
This article was first published on banglatribune.com