Saturday, June 12, 1999
Ministry: Withdraw notices over dioxin scare
In issuing the directive yesterday, Deputy Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Abdul Aziz Mahmood said the assurances issued by industries through the mass media were confusing consumers.
The ministry, importers and manufacturers had been actively taking action since dioxin contamination in food was detected in Belgium, but only the ministry was responsible for issuing statements on product safety, he said.
Anyone who breached this regulation was liable to face action under the Food Act 1983, he said in a letter to the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president and Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry secretary-general, reports Bernama.
The national news agency released the report at 9.30 last night. A number of importers, when contacted, said they were not aware of the ministry's directive.
On Monday, the Government imposed a ban on the import of meat, eggs and dairy products from European Union (EU) countries and ordered products already in the market to be taken off the shelves.
Following that, many manufacturers and importers made announcements in the media in the form of press releases and advertisements to assure consumers on the safety of their products.
In Nibong Tebal, Agriculture Minister Datuk Amar Dr Sulaiman Daud said yesterday that Malaysia has suspended the import of all animal feed and products from Europe as a "precautionary measure" following the Belgian dioxin scare.
He said the Veterinary Services Department had been instructed to submit to the Cabinet a list of all imported animal feed.
"As soon as we get confirmation on which imported feed on this list are safe and which are not, we will take the necessary action," he said.
"Pending confirmation, the department has suspended the import of animal feed for safety reasons," he said after visiting a prawn farming project in Sungai Chenaam.
A French Government report had cited "grave anomalies" in such feed because residues from septic tanks and waste factory water had been routinely used in the making of European animal feed.
Dr Sulaiman said the country was not overreacting as claimed by some European countries but "we want to be doubly sure that the safety of our people is well taken care of."
"The Veterinary Services Department is also liaising with its counterparts from other countries to check on the situation," he said.
Dr Sulaiman said imports of European animal products and feed were minimal as the bulk came from the United States, Argentina, and China.
"The suspension will not affect our farming industry because we import soya bean, corn, and fish meal from these three countries.
"The Government encourages locals to source our own products," he said, adding that the ministry was looking for other alternatives to bone meal, which might be linked to the mad cow disease.
However, in Kuala Lumpur, European Business Information Centre (EBIC) executive director Raffaello Tarroni maintained that the panic among Malaysians was unjustified.
It was correct to take precautions, he said, but an indiscriminate ban was unfair.
He said it was impossible to use residue from toilets, septic tanks and sludge from waste treatment factories to make animal feed.
"It is crazy to think of that," he said.
Tarroni said production waste of chicken, fish and meat, such as fish heads, guts and chicken heads would be utilised as feed in powder form after being treated.
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