Food regulators must get tougher: Council

04/11/2009 15:43

THE grace period for traders to clean up their act of selling damaged or expired food items is over and the time has come for regulators to crack the whip.

To date the Consumer Council continues to find some traders selling food items that are either unsafe for human consumption or stored under unhygienic conditions. These bad practices include selling expired goods, damaged goods, imprinted expired dates torn out and/or new dates pasted over them. The monitoring of trading practices and consumer protection in Fiji’s far-flung towns and rural areas has always been a concern for the Council.

Council’s regular market surveillance has revealed that selling of expired, substandard, dented and damaged food products is still very rife and some retail outlets are habitual offenders. Rotten vegetables and fruits are still being sold; damaged container lids and opened packs on display; dented food tins; but most disturbing is that many of these items were selling at very cheap prices and/or the price tags displayed were confusing.

The Council is calling on regulators to penalise traders who ignore fair trading laws and food regulations. These traders who sell expired or bad food products are profiteering by putting consumers and the general public at risk. What concerns the Council is that despite the regulations in place and constant calls from the authorities for compliance, bad trade practices continue.

The Council went to the extent of making contacting and sending letters to suspected traders to comply with food safety regulations, yet the practice continues. The Food Safety Regulations 2009 has clearly defined standards on the quality of food items that must be sold and it prohibits the sale of damaged or expired goods. If traders continue to breach the laws, they are liable to face a maximum fine of $2000 or 12 months imprisonment.

We wish to remind retailers that our officers are regularly checking out their products. As the Food Safety Regulations came into full effect on October 14, retailers must take the responsibility to understand the laws and comply with the provisions for food safety and hygiene. Ignorance of law is no defence.

The Council recently launched its campaign on strengthening advocacy on consumer rights and consumer protection laws which was graciously funded by the European Union and we will continue to make every effort to help curb unfair trade practices and protecting consumers from health risk and dangers through their vigilant and proactive actions to get such sub-standard food products off the shelves.