The recent country-wide public uproar on fake products and or expired /damaged frozen goods such as chicken or meat goods being sold in shops (especially Asian shops) has prompted the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) to take action in carrying out an inspection operation.
A team from the National Agricultural Quarantine Inspection Authority (NAQIA) including Chief Scientist Alphonse Bannick accompanied the Minister for Agriculture and Livestock and Member for Maprik Hon John Simon to Wewak, East Sepik Province, to carry out this operation.
They were joined by Environmental Scientist Winnie Saigu from East Sepik Provincial health Authority and the Provincial Police Commander Albert Beli who noted his support for this operation during a brief.
The team was on ground to carry out inspections and acquire samples of products or food items that could have been illegally brought in, and or may be fake – items /food products that could pose a threat to human health and cause other serious damages.
This inspection will also allow NAQIA to identify, if there are any infectious pests and diseases that have the potential to seriously harm PNG’s animal and plant life and affect economic growth.
According to the Minister, imported goods which do not meet national standards, for instance not having being properly declared and or having labels written in foreign languages without being translated, should not be shelved in shops.
“How can people know what they are eating if the labels are written in a foreign language”, he said.
Minister Simon said there are many issues that have risen in the past especially on illegal items or imported products, and although appropriate authorities continue to address these issues they are somewhat increasing at a higher rate.
“We will stand to be cheated and that could pose a great threat to health as well as revenue; tax revenue is lost because of undeclared goods”, he said.
Minister Simon reiterated that going forward, he will ensure to involve all relevant agencies to address this ongoing issue; taking into consideration the current coronavirus pandemic. He added that authorities need to be proactive about this issue and seriously take tougher stances to protect our country from such deadly diseases.
Meantime, the team conducted a quiet operation on all major shops in Wewak – about four tinned items were identified without proper labelling.
The shops where these items were identified were warned and ordered to remove these items off the shelves.
East Sepik’s second largest Town, Maprik, was also visited by this team.
Ms Siagu said Maprik town is a dumping ground for fake and or illegal goods that enter Wewak.
She said it is a sad reality but there’s only so much that can be done, hence she acknowledged Minister Simon’s initiative to carry out this operation.
She added that one of the main causes of fake or illegal items going undetected is due to the absence of active inspections, however following this operation she hopes that the District Administration under the District Development Authority CEO Joshua Himina will look into strategies that will allow for similar operations to be carried out consistently.
Mr Bannick said there are similar findings in both towns – one of the major issues that was identified was having canned meat and or tinned fish from unapproved sources (countries).
He said currently PNG imports major canned meat and fish (tin fish) from approved sources such as (corned beef) Australia and (Tulip meat) Denmark.
He reiterated that for tinned fish – one major source was China – however at the moment there are many different brands on the shelves and the team has identified a number of tinned fishes which have suspicious appearance.
He noted that they have taken information and samples which will then be brought to the appropriate authorities, including the National Fisheries Authority to identify if these imported tinned fish are genuine and or have gone through proper process.
There will be more inspections carried out in other centers as well, says Minister for Agriculture. [Released: March 30 2020]