…as Food and Drug Department intensifies enforcement
Importers of food items could see entire containers being refused entry if the expiry dates on products contained have elapsed or will shortly elapse. Added to this, such importers could find themselves before the court of law.
This assertion was Wednesday made by Director of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department, Mr. Marlan Cole.
Cole in an invited comment, Wednesday, said, “We have people in the fast food industry bringing in expired things (food items) and putting them to use and people are not aware what they are getting.”
Although not in a position to share the names of the companies that have so engaged, Cole divulged “Right now, as I sit at my desk, I have entries from a particular organisation that has products that expired since March 2016.”
“Some of them we have talked to repeatedly, and urged them to stop doing this thing…We have had to hold several containers and sort through everything. (We have had to) take out the bad things then get an inspector to go seize the bad things and so on…We ain’t able with that no more!”
He made it clear that once the expiry day has reached on a product it is no longer suitable for consumption. “There is no grace period. Do you think we can send anything with an expired date to the United States? They will send you back with that expired thing.
“Once a product has a label stating used by a certain day once that date has passed there is no discussion about whether it has expired…If the product label clearly states it is expired it is expired and we will not accept importers bringing in such items anymore,” said Cole.
There have been occasions when quite a few products have slipped through the cracks, he added. “There have been times when we would have found two expired items, about 10 would have already passed through,” said Cole as he considered that “they just keep taking it for granted and when it slips through we don’t know and they continue to use these products in their preparation.”
According to Cole, the Food and Drug Department has increasingly become involved in such cases because of increased referrals from the Customs Department of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
In an official statement on the matter which was issued Wednesday, Cole said that “the Food and Drug Department is strongly advising all importers of food, particularly those who import foods for further processing and/or for use in the fast food industry, to ensure that they are not expired and have at least 75 per cent of their shelf life at the time of shipment.
It was revealed, too, that the Department has been frequently intercepting containers with some items already expired while others had only few days’ shelf life remaining.
In one such instance, it was highlighted that a container arrived in Guyana on December 24, 2016 with one item being expired since June 2, 2016 and others on November 19 and December 17, 2016.
In addition, there were reportedly some items that were going to be expired in January 2017, according to the Food and Drug statement signed by Cole.
“The department is also advising procurement/purchasing and quality assurance personnel in those industries to ensure that only items with acceptable expiration dates are ordered, shipped and or received to be used for food processing for our consumers,” the statement added.
It continued, “The department will no longer facilitate assortment (separation) exercises at any port of entry, neither in importers’ bonds nor in their warehouses. Action will now be taken against importers who knowingly and deliberately perpetuate this practice of importing expired and or short dated items.”
The statement noted that such actions will not be limited to the refusal of entry but will also include legal proceedings against perpetrators.
Cole said, “The department will continue to work in close collaboration with the Guyana Revenue Authority’s customs department to ensure food inspectors have easy and regular access to documents, records and containers with food destined to be used in the food process and or fast food industry.”
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