…Permission granted yesterday for relabelled import of product
The Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GAF&DD) was yesterday flooded with phone calls from dozens of consumers following the appearance of Chinese-labelled Fernleaf Fortified Full Cream Milk Powder on shelves across the country.
Consumers reported that the label appeared in Chinese. In some cases, another label in English was used to cover over the foreign-language label. The label when peeled back displays another layer which also carries English, raising even more questions about the reason behind the dual labels.
Further, Kaieteur News found that both labels carried the same barcodes. The outer label carried the words, “made in New Zealand while the inner label states, “product of New Zealand”. There are more differences. Among them, ‘full cream vitamin enriched’ on the inner label while the outer label carries the description ‘fortified full cream’.
GAF&DD Director Marlan Cole said that this is a process known as reconditioning or relabeling, and is permissible under Regulation 12 of the Food and Drug Act once approved by GAF&DD.
Investigations done by Kaieteur News showed that the relabelled Fernleaf milk tin was not previously approved for importation.
Cole confirmed that in the midst of public outcry, permission was granted yesterday for the importation of the relabelled Fernleaf Milk.
According to Cole, on January 8, he received a letter from Nestlé Caribbean Inc., through its authorized distributor, Massy Distribution Guyana Inc., requesting permission to import the relabelled milk.
He stated that the department did not act immediately on the request. Cole stated that the department is understaffed and swamped with varying requests.
“We did not realize that the product was widely distributed on the market, maybe since Christmas. The distributor should be held accountable, because they would have had to take our letter of authorization and then circulate same to their other distributors locally, so that in the eventuality there is a question on the milk, they would have been able to justify the distribution, because it would have been authorized by this department,” Cole noted.
He explained that the relabelling exercise of the milk became necessary because the tin did not carry the list of ingredients, the nutritional information, storage instructions and other updated information about the milk in English.
Further, he stated that the milk, which is manufactured in New Zealand, is originally labelled for external markets in China and Latin America.
“The manufacturer understands and recognized that if the milk is coming to our market, it must be in English and carry the pertinent information on it. They embarked on placing an additional covering over the can and shipped it out,” Cole noted.
He added, “The distributor would have been duty bound to ask the Food and Drug Department for permission to have the relabelled product sold on our local market. It was just accidental that somebody recognized the layered label and became very suspicious.”
Nestlé Caribbean Inc. in a statement admitted that both the 900 grams and 2500 grams Fernleaf Fortified Full Cream Milk Powder are relabelled. The company advised that the products are authentic and safe for consumption.
“The Guyana Food & Drug Department, upon verifying the authenticity of the product, has granted approval for the reconditioned label. These products have been relabelled to reflect accurate information regarding the nutrition information, ingredient list, allergen statement, storage instructions and updated product description,” the company stated.
Cole stated that the department welcomes the vigilance of consumers, but the distributors thought that it would have sneaked into the country without anyone knowing.
“It actually did not work in their favour, because now they have to do damage control. The consequences are that the distributor will find a slump in sale. The company must understand and all other companies must understand that you basically can’t do anything and get away with it. The consumers are very vigilant,” Cole noted.
He stated that the milk will remain available on the market.
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