Concerns continue to mount over expired foodstuffs in town

Concerns have been raised by citizens amid the circulation of expired drinks that were believed to be imported into the country without notice.
Reports have been making round on social media that some expired soft drinks were served at a local ceremony on Saturday, fueling suspicion that some extra expired food stuffs and drinks could be on sale in the corner shops and supermarkets. This has raised debate in the public domain with some questioning the pro-activeness of the Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA).

The FSQA came to being by an Act of Parliament in 2011 but started its operations in 2013 in the area of food and feed. Since then, the Authority has only 36 inspectors

Recently, hundreds of bags of expired rice were intercepted at the border post, expired chickens were disposed and unhealthy production of oil was also detected. Many expired foods were found at the country’s biggest market, Serrekunda.

The data obtained from FSQA indicated that from last year to date, five business entities were fined, 17 closed, eight prosecuted and five mega disposals were carried out.

The Point has engaged a concerned citizen and a resident of Bundung, Babou Jobe, who expressed his dissatisfaction with the current state of food items imported into the country. He said expired foods are mostly circulated by wheelbarrow vendors, saying enforcement should be done to save the lives of the people.

“A huge number of our population cannot read or write. Therefore, they can buy expired foods without knowing. So these people are at risk of consuming those products. It is the duty of the regulatory body to promise an environment free from expired foods,” he stated.

Aji Astou Njie, also expressed her fear of buying certain products, arguing that many products are imported into the country without knowing their origin or being checked by Food Safety.

She said: “I cannot dwell more on the matter but I know something has to be done if we are really serious as a nation to save our people from health complications.”

Marabi Amfaal Hydara, FSQA’s communications officer, told this medium that in order to make so that the food that enters the country is safe, his institution deploys inspectors across all the borders including the airport. He added that this is to ensure all foods and feeds coming into the country are inspected.

He said: “We have a scientific department to ensure that anything people complaint is checked before making any conclusion. We also have the food control department that normally goes out every day to inspect. We have the regulatory department that is more of enforcement in case of someone violating the act.”

Dwelling on how inspectors determine consumable food, he explained that they have a checklist that usually guides them and checks if the food is fit for human and animal consumption.

Giving his reaction to the expired foods circulating on social media, he reiterated that when their inspectors get to the field, they don’t see such foods people complain about.

“We cannot do anything about things we cannot see. We normally reach out anytime we see something on social media. There is a junction named Expired Junction at Serrekunda, but the things they sell are actually not expired, it is mostly six months before the expiry date,” he said.

He emphasised that their inspectors are trying to trace the origin of the alleged expired drinks, while noting that finding the sole proprietor is the problem. He added that they don’t make decisions without finding the actual person responsible.

Molamin Jammeh, a public health officer, shared his thoughts with this medium, while reiterating that public health is the art and science of preventing disease promoting health and prolonging life through organised effort.

He explained that consuming expired food affects health, saying public health officers are driving to make sure people do not fall sick by preventing diseases from occurring. He said if someone falls sick from consuming expired foods, it has undermined the goal of public health.

“Expired foods in the market threaten public health. We should ensure that the food that is imported is safe and of quality and that we will be able to prevent the population from any safety issues. The consequences of consuming expired food products depend on the composition. Some expired food pose significant health threat which include food poisoning, diarrhoea, stomachic and muscle ache,”

He said some of the chemicals used to preserve the food may be toxic to humans when consumed after the expiry date.

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