Saturday, November 8, 2008

Melamine hysteria #7 - ...still sleeping

While the organ trading issue has been raging in the press as if some major government decision is going to be announced soon, the Agro-Food & Vet Authority is plodding on with its melamine investigations. It has proudly informed us that "As of 24 Oct 08, 3,200 types of milk and milk products, chocolates, biscuits, non-dairy creamers and other products imported from more than 40 countries have been taken for laboratory analysis to check for melamine." Then a bit further down it tells us, "...has also intensified and completed its checks on more than 640 types of the major brands of imported and locally manufactured biscuits available in Singapore."

Fantastic!!! So far it has identified 33 products worthy of recall.

Now please tell us :

a] What is your 'minimum tolerable concentration' of melamine used by AVA to decide if any food product be allowed for human consumption? Why is the AVA being so secretive, when every other regulatory agency has made their position clear. Surely you cannot be hiding anything?

b] What are the 640-33 = 607 products tested and found safe? Surely you can tell us this? Why so secretive?
c] What are the 3200 - 640 = 2560 products taken for testing by you as of 24 October, but have not yet been tested? Are they still on the shelves? When will we have an idea which products on supermarket shelves are clear, or not yet tested? Why so secretive?

C'mon AVA, your 'managed risk approach' is not an excuse to treat Singaporeans as complete imbeciles who cannot digest more than baby food (melamine free). We know that melamine is not that toxic. But there are things you need to do for us to maintain food safety. Checking for melamine is one of those. Please tell us some real information.

AVA, why can't you be more transparent?

Meanwhile people in the food industry complain of stacks of food products being held up in warehouses because AVA won't let them through, but yet has no way of clearing them. Their attempts to get approvals to release their products is thwarted by this wall of silence and bureaucratic maze which surrounds the whole process. They have absolutely no idea what standards the AVA uses, and what AVA expects for their products to be allowed into the market. I think the AVA really needs to get itself up to scratch. I don't think it's managing its regulatory role very well. I think we are very fortunate that melamine is not that toxic, and there is a certain ability for society to 'forgive' present regulatory shortcomings, but I really hope the AVA will use the opportunity to upgrade its professionalism so that we can look towards future incidents with more confidence in their ability to protect us.

No comments: