(Feature) DOH to the public: Buy food products only from reputable sources

July 14, 2015 5:28 am 

By Leilani S. Junio

MANILA, July 13 (PNA) — Amid the reported cases of fake food products and the investigation on alleged durian candy poisoning of close to 2,000 people in the Caraga region in Mindanao, the Department of Health (DOH) has cited ways on how the public can protect themselves from unsafe products.

In a press briefing held on Monday at the DOH central office in Sta. Cruz, Manila, Health Secretary Janette L. Garin, through a statement read by Dr. Lyndon Lee-Suy, DOH spokesperson, said it is important to be extra-careful in buying and eating foods from unknown sources.

“We must buy only from reputable sources. Consumers must also check the physical appearance and condition of the product,” Secretary Garin stressed.

She also said that the public should avoid buying dented, bulging or deformed canned goods.

“It is important to check the open date markings, like expiry date, consume before date or best before date for perishable products,” she reminded.

The DOH chief said that the consumer should also take time to always double-check holiday promo items such as those included in the "Buy 1, Take 1" or freebies to ensure that the products they are purchasing are of good quality and within safety guarantee period.

The Health secretary also said it is very important to avoid purchasing unlabelled repacked food products that are being sold or claiming that such are the same or made by the manufacturers of known brands or products.

She reminded that repacked food products must also bear proper label information and must be prepared in hygienic facilities and manner.

“We call on the public to be aware of the initial signs and symptoms of poisoning such as vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness and impaired or loss consciousness,” she said.

She added that whether mild or severe, the patient should be immediately brought to the nearest hospital.

“Poisoning is deadly and immediate medical attention is warranted,” she said.

According to Dr. Lee-Suy, the sellers have the obligation to ensure that the food products they are selling are not over expiry period under the Food Safety Act of 2013.

“They will be held liable if they are caught that the food products displayed on the shelves are expired,” Lee-Suy warned.

On the part of the consumer, he clarified that the manufacturer will not be liable if it is found out that a consumer ate the food product even if he or she was aware that it was already expired.

For his part, DOH Undersecretary Nemesio T. Gako said the moment that a person read that the food product is already expired, he/she should right away follow the instruction not to consume it anymore for safety purposes.

“Do not insist on eating expired products… The same is similar to expired drugs because they can have adverse effects,” Gako added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Maria Lourdes Santiago, deputy director general of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said that in the reported food poisoning incident in CARAGA region, they are including in the investigation two manufacturers of the durian candies allegedly pinpointed initially as the causes of massive food poisoning.

Dr. Santiago said they are also including in the investigation several possible contributing factors such as repacking angle, which was possibly committed either by a licensed or unlicensed food manufacturer.

Santiago refused to name the two manufacturers, saying that right now, microbiological test are being conducted to analyze the cause of the food poisoning.

She explained that due to difficulty in getting FDA license, some micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) consider securing a license as a big burden and cannot comply with it unless they are aiming for mass production of their products for nationwide distribution.

She said that chemical tests on samples of the products taken will also take place.

“Under the new law, the Food and Safety Act, all processed foods must be registered… Pero you have to do it at least in approaches, to make sure regulatory rights are in place. Hindi naman pwede agad-agad ang registration, kasi hindi kaya at hindi naman handa ang mga enterprises,” she added.

She estimated that the results and other developments on the FDA investigations will be out or be disclosed by Wednesday noon.

To date, 66 of the poisoned students whose ages range from 10 to 14 years are still under observation in different hospitals in CARAGA region.

The victims were mostly students from Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Sur who were rushed to hospitals after suffering signs and symptoms of food poisoning after allegedly eating durian candies.

The DOH earlier facilitated the treatment of the patients and sent toxicologists and experts from its Epidemiology Bureau to further investigate and assess the samples of the candies.

Under the Food and Safety Act of 2013, food manufacturers who will be found to have violated the provisions of the law after a due process will be given sanctions, including a fine ranging from P50,000 to P500,000 and revocation of business license.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the said law, signed on Feb. 20 of this year, promote food safety by giving assurance that what the consumer buys will not cause illness or deaths, that one is getting what is promised by the label, and if anything goes wrong after consuming the product, one would readily know who is responsible.

The FDA said that under the Food Safety Act, food safety is the concern of everyone — the DOH, Department of Agriculture, Local Government Unit (LGUs), Philippine National Police and even consumers have a big role on it. (PNA)

SCS/LSJ/SSC

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