|Tuesday, 15 June 2004|
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Crack down on food racketeers
The detection of a stock of fungus-infected imported food items, ready to be despatched for sale at food outlets in the city and elsewhere, is another disturbing reminder that Sri Lanka could very well be a dumping ground for injurious and unconsumable food imports and other items of veritable junk waste which are completely banned abroad.
As indicated in our front page news story yesterday, the importers of these harmful food items were in the process of stamping new dates of expiry on them, with the aim of foisting them on unsuspecting customers when the police swooped on the enterprise and put an end to the sordid operation. Among the items to be sold were milk foods, meats, biscuits, fruits and chocolates.
This is, of course, not the first occasion such scandalous businesses have been detected and put an end to. It was only recently that stale upmarket consumables, such as sausages and meats, were found to be on sale in some grocery stores in a Colombo suburb. Contaminated milk foods and oils have also been detected and seized while on their way to the consumers' table.
The disturbing frequency with which these detections occur points to the possibility of the people's daily food intake being considerably contaminated and unfit for human consumption, although we lack concrete evidence of this being a certainty.
Apparently, the authorities need to be constantly on their guard for brazen irregularities of this kind on the part of some food importers and traders who couldn't care in the least for the well being of their customers. Human health is being coldly and calculatedly sacrificed on the altar of monetary profit.
We cannot see an end to these blights unless and until the authorities take rigorous, punitive action against the offenders concerned. Inasmuch as blackmarketeers and illegal profiteers have to be brought to justice, importers and distributors of contaminated and unconsumable food too should be prosecuted and punished.
We are quite aware that State agencies exist which are charged with maintaining quality standards in food and other human consumables. It is their responsibility to keep an eagle eye on every consumer item which is imported into the country and distributed for sale, with the aim of detecting and eliminating in time those that do not measure up to the required quality standards.
We also now possess the institutions, such as the Consumer Protection Authority, which are required to protect the interests of consumers.
We hope the current detections would alert these agencies to the need to be constantly vigilant on the food consumption front. Consumers too need to be eternally vigilant in order to escape being duped into purchasing death and disease-dealing consumables.
We need to be aware that deceptions abound in the import of consumables. Third World countries are considered veritable dumping grounds for these substandard goods. The authorities need to ensure that every import meets the standard requirements.
For instance, cooking oils of various kinds are imported, but what are the constituents of such material? Sometimes nobody seems to know. All this points to the need for constant vigilance on the part of all.
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