On January 19, the Bangladeshi parliament passed a bill prohibiting the use of antibiotics, growth hormone, steroids and other harmful pesticides in animal and fish feeds. The new bill, if turned into law, will guarantee safer standards for fish and animal feeds that will ultimately improve food safety.

According to the Financial Express, the bill was passed in the wake of a self-imposed ban by Bangladeshi shrimp exporters due to a rejection of their products on safety grounds by the European Union.

In recent decades, the huge growth of aquaculture in Bangladesh has transformed the fishing industry into one driven by hatcheries. The growth in hatcheries, which now account for about 40 percent of Bangladesh’s fish supply, also spurred a huge growth in the demand for fish feed. The feed companies, scrambling and lacking experts, produced poor quality feed often containing chemicals harmful to human health.   

When prawn and shrimp exports were denied by the European Union, farmers realized the undesirable quality of the food and enforced a self-imposed ban on exports.

Seafood, one of the country’s major export industries, makes up a large percentage of the Bangladeshi economy.  Importing European countries include England, Germany, Belgium and France.

In response to the rejection of aquaculture export items, Fisheries and Livestock Minister Abdul Latif Biswas proposed the bill, which parliament passed by voice vote amid the absence of the main opposition party, BNP, and its allies.

“On Monday, a team of EU inspectors came to inquire what measures we took to check chemical presence in shrimp,” Mr. Biswas said as he proposed to draft the legislation.  According to Mr. Biswas, the bill will require the government to set quality standards for animal feed which producers and traders must follow.

The bill says all businessmen involved in production, import, marketing and sale of fish or animal feed will have to obtain licenses from the government before they may legally profit from feed.

Anyone violating the rules or law contained within the bill would stand trial.

“We cannot maintain the safety standard of fish and animal feed due to the absence of this law,” Mr. Biswas said upon the bill’s introduction. “This obstacle has stood in the way of exporting shrimp and aggravated the standard of food prepared from fish and meat.”

The European Union issued a rapid alert notification on Bangladeshi shrimp last year because of unauthorized antibiotics found in the product, he said.

“We think fish and animal feeds were the sources of any injurious ingredients in our exported fish and seafood,” Mr. Biswas concluded.