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Sunday, 03 July 2016

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CAA to certify consumer food hygiene

The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) and the Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) will conduct a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification program to improve the quality of prepared food in catering houses and restaurants.

"We will conduct the GMP certification program to encourage caterers to obtain the certification to ensure consumer food is safe and hygienic. This will facilitate the efforts to eliminate unhealthy food preparation and storage practices that are currently in use," CAA Chairman, W. Hasitha Tillekeratne told Business Observer.

There is an action plan developed and the first step towards widening the reach of GMP-certified food outlets is capacity-building of SLSI staff.

"We are in the process of preparing reading material on GMP to educate the related parties on the importance of the certification for food establishments. We hope to have district level programs to cover all 25 districts to create awareness as to how they can improve food preparation places and obtain GMP certification," he said.

The core areas of popularizing the GMP certification are education and awareness where many steps have been taken to achieve the desired results. A survey conducted by CAA recently showed that the eating places that long-distance buses patronize are very unhygienic and unsafe.

These places are not clean and food is prepared without following hygienic food practices where in some instances water from the toilets are used to prepare food.

Daily complaints

The survey found that food sold in these places is unfit for human consumption, but they go unnoticed and consumers face many health issues as a result. The food handlers, storage facilities and the quality of food items are far below standards.

"We receive daily complaints with regard to food items including expiry date, issues in visibility of the labels and other issues. The consumers should be vigilant to check the packing of the food items to ascertain the expiry date, see whether the tin is bloated or rusted and label altered. We take legal action against retailers for selling food not suited for consumer consumption," he said.

Among the complaints from consumers are food items that are within the shelf-life, but not good for consumption.

"In such instances, we get the defective sample from the consumer and get the same sample from the market and send for chemical, physical and biological testing. We obtain the services of the Government Analyst's Department, Medical Research Institute, Industrial Technical Research Institute and SLSI to conduct tests.

"If the test confirms that the product is not good for consumption, we remove the entire batch from the market and also take legal action," he said.

Under the Food Act, it has been made mandatory to mark the ingredients and consumers should go through the label properly before purchasing packed food items to avoid unnecessary complications, he said.

Consumers could complain to the CAA in the event a label of a product is unreadable, deface or erased. They should make a complaint to the CAA and we will act upon it, he said.

The CAA has not specified any font size for the label and it is covered under the Food Act No 26 of 1980 under Food Labeling and Advertising Regulations 2005.

The following declarations shall be on the main panel of the package or container-

(a) common name of the contents, at least in any two of the three languages in bold face type;

(b) brand or trade name if any, in any one or more of the three languages in a manner that it shall not mislead any person,

(c) the net contents of the package or container expressed by the international symbols 'g' or 'kg' in the case of solids, and

'ml' or 'I' in the case of liquids and if packaged in liquid medium, the net drained weight expressed as 'g' or 'kg'. Provided however that, the common name may be substituted by any other name as set out in Schedule I hereto.

The following declarations shall be on any panel in any one or more of the three languages -

(i) names of any permitted food additive or INS number as prescribed by regulations under the Act;

(b) instructions for storage and use, if any;

(c) the name and address of the manufacturer and packer or distributor in Sri Lanka; (d) the batch number or code number or a decipherable code marking the date of expiry, the date of manufacture, in case of products are imported in hull form: and repacked, the date of manufacture and the date of repacking, a complete list of ingredients used in such food in their common names in descending order of their proportions.

Meanwhile, to reduce Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) which is caused by excessive sugar in bottled drinks, the Health and Indigenous Medicine Ministry will introduce red, yellow, green label categories for all bottled drinks from August 1 under Article 32 of the Food Act No 26 of 1980.

A special red label will be introduced for all bottled drinks containing excessive sugar. The manufacturers and importers should display the red label if the sugar content of the drink is over 11 grams per 100 ml.

All locally produced and imported bottled drinks such as soft drinks, fruit drinks etc in cans, bottles and packets except milk should display the red label in all three languages when the sugar content exceeds 11 grams in 100 ml. Middle level sugar content (between two and four grams per 100 ml) should be indicated by a yellow label. A green label should be displayed for drinks which contain a sugar level of two grams or less.

 

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