In 2019, a group of researchers from Stanford University and the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B) focused on turmeric adulteration. Then the party along with politicians including the country’s food safety authorities and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself started a nationwide campaign to eradicate the use of lead in turmeric.
Curries need turmeric to cook them well — as any South Asian will admit. There is no match for this spice to enhance the taste, smell and color of curries. Many people think that eating turmeric and even bathing with turmeric is beneficial for the body.
But in South Asia and many other places, people have to pay a terrible price for this turmeric.
Because the turmeric sold in these places has regular lead [লেড ক্রোমেট] is mixed. This mixture of adulteration is to make the yellow color a little sharper.
Lead is a type of neurotoxin. It increases the risk of heart and brain diseases. Children are most at risk from lead in food. Because lead inhibits children’s cognitive development.
A study by the Washington-based think-tank Center for Global Development showed that children in poor countries have a 20 percent learning gap compared to children in developed countries because of children’s exposure to lead.
Lancet Planetary HealthAccording to a study published in , South Asians have the highest blood lead levels. It is difficult to precisely identify the source of so many metals. Because in this region from cookware to cosmetics; Everything is full of metal.
However, in 2019, a group of researchers from Stanford University and the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B) focused on turmeric adulteration. Then the party along with politicians including the country’s food safety authorities and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself started a nationwide campaign to eradicate the use of lead in turmeric.
Environmental Research According to a new study published in the journal, this initiative in Bangladesh has been a great success.
After two years, the amount of turmeric containing lead in the Bangladeshi market decreased from 47 percent to 0 percent. And its impact on the country’s public health is almost immediate. Turmeric factory workers had an average blood lead reduction of up to 30 percent. A preliminary analysis by New York-based environmental NGO Pure Earth found that the campaign added an extra year of healthy life for just one dollar. On the other hand, to achieve the same success directly financially, approximately $836 would have been spent.
In South Asia, where rapid policy implementation is a rarity — successful policy implementation is even more remote — Bangladesh’s success is truly surprising. Stanford University’s Jenna Forsyth said that because the problem was explained to policymakers in a convincing way, support was easily won from them.
From 2014 to 2018, Forsyth and colleagues collected data to show the association between high lead exposure and turmeric consumption among pregnant women in rural Bangladesh. By showing the results obtained in this research, the researchers were able to convince the Food Safety Department of Bangladesh and even the Prime Minister’s Office to take quick action.
As a part of this campaign is also carried out in mass media. They warn viewers through graphic content about the dangers of lead-laced yellow. Sheikh Hasina spoke about this problem on national television. About 50,000 notices about lead-poisoning are posted in turmeric in markets and public areas. By collecting the blood of the workers from the factory, the researchers published the results of the study showing the relationship of lead with various diseases in the workers’ bodies.
The government declared the adulteration of turmeric as a crime in the country. A government raid on a large yellow processing plant was televised. The traveling court sentenced two wholesale traders for selling adulterated turmeric.
Stanford University researchers hope to launch similar campaigns in India and Pakistan. They fear that the rate of adulteration of turmeric in these two countries is higher and the problem is more deeply rooted than in Bangladesh. Most of the toxic lead used in turmeric in Bangladesh was imported from India. And the supply chain of turmeric in India is bigger and more complex than in Bangladesh. A few wholesalers in India supply turmeric throughout the country.
Mahbubur Rahman of ICDDR, B. believes that the broader lessons of this campaign in Bangladesh are applicable to all kinds of policy issues.