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Sunday, June 13, 1999

EU's task

Grouping must test and certify food items, says Chua

IPOH: The European Union Commission must come up with a statement to clarify which meat or dairy products are contaminated with dioxin, and constantly brief the world's health ministries, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said yesterday.

He said this was a better way than for individual countries to conduct their own tests.

Chua said the commission could seek the help of the World Health Organisation to test and certify the safety of all products from EU countries.

"We have to depend on EU countries to conduct the tests on the dioxin contamination as they have the capacity and the technical know-how.

"This (precaution) is not only for Malaysia but also for other countries which buy products from EU countries," he told reporters after the opening of the Perak MCA annual general meeting here yesterday.

"In Malaysia, we do not have the capacity to run tests on the products that are contaminated. It's also the same with many other countries. As long as EU countries do not come up with the certification required, we have to reject their products," he said.

Chua said the ministry task force was also checking whether advertisements by manufacturers and importers declaring their infant formula were safe for consumption had breached the Code of Ethics for Infant Formula Products imposed by the Government years ago.

He said the government move to ban the products was for the safety and well-being of the people, especially babies who had yet to build up antibodies.

Therefore, the public should heed government directives and not be confused by the advertisements, he said.

"Read the labels. Do not consume any foodstuff from EU countries manufactured after Jan 1 this year," he said.

Last Monday, the Government imposed a ban on the import of meat, eggs and dairy products from EU countries and ordered the products already in the market to be taken off the shelves following a dioxin contamination scare.

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.

The Health Ministry then directed all manufacturers and importers to withdraw all notices on assurances they had given to consumers on product safety as it had confused consumers.

If they failed to do so, they could be held liable and face action under the Food Act 1983.

In Kuala Lumpur, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Wira Ali Rustam said the ministry would ensure that retailers did not hide the banned products.

He said importers and retailers who did not comply with the directive could be prosecuted under the Food Quality Control Act.

The ministry would investigate all imported products containing dioxin and would compare the records on the amount of products imported, kept in stock and the amount sold, he said.

"If there are any balance and we don't find them, it means they (retailers) have hidden them.

"There is no way the importers can escape the system we are using now because we trace the goods from the beginning till the end. The public need not worry," Ali Rustam said.

Asked whether the goods returned to the manufacturers and importers would be destroyed, he said, the decision depended on the parties involved.

If the parties concerned decided to destroy them, the ministry would supervise the destruction, he added.

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Copyright © 1999. Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd. (Co No. 10894-D)
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