GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Friday November 8, 2019 – An importer is set to face legal action after a clampdown by authorities uncovered that he had knowingly imported expired or near expired food to put on local shelves.
The substandard food items were imported from Canada by Faizal Asif Iqbal Alli, an East Coast Demerara businessman. They were shipped in four containers that were recently denied entry to Guyana by the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD).
“Legal proceeding will now be instituted by the Department’s prosecutor against Mr Alli for knowingly or deliberately facilitating the importation and release of substandard articles of food to be used by the general populace of Guyana,” a statement issued by the GA-FDD yesterday disclosed.
The Department said a decision had been made to examine the items from the containers following several consumer complaints, many attempts by the department’s inspectors to conduct inspections and locate several bonds operated by Alli, and against the backdrop of allegations of alleged malpractices perpetrated by Alli.
It said detailed examinations and sampling of the container’s contents were carried out on October 25 and 30 and inspectors discovered that the items were tampered with.
Expiry dates were found to have been deliberately removed and extended with a date marking machine and the damaged area on boxes where the original date was removed was concealed using a sticker bearing a Canadian flag.
“Some products were deliberately removed from the original container or packages and placed into bulk container void of labelling details. All suspected to be expired or short-dated. Most, if not all items of food, were close dated with less than 75 per cent of the shelf life remaining before importation,” the GA-FDD added.
It also said that some items were labelled with misleading information. For example, it said, Acetic Acid was labelled as ‘White Vinegar’.
It was based on the report from the inspectors who made the findings that the Department refused entry of the containers, and the importer was informed of the decision.
“Inspections will now be urgently be carried out at retail premises across Guyana since two of the containers bearing substandard items were electronically released from the port of entry without the Department’s consent or approval,” it said, adding that when Alli’s premises were visited, the items were not found.
“The Department will now exchange communication and details of this practice with the Canadian Food Exporters Association, which attested to the wholesomeness of the products on a Health Certificate that was used to facilitate the trade of the items from Canada to Guyana.
“Details of this practice and the affected products will be shared at our National Food Safety and Control Committee Meeting (NFSCCM) which will be hosted on 12th November, where members (inspectors) will be asked to carry out detail inspections and sensitization in their respected regions across Guyana, since this practice is suspected to have been ongoing.”
The GA-FDD has urged consumers and retailers to be very vigilant and pay attention to the labels of products and to ensure dates are not tampered with.
In addition, consumers are being advised to ensure they make purchase of items of food that are properly labelled in English, have clearly written date marks, with a complete address of the manufacturer and with font sizes that are clearly legible to the naked eye.