Amid the spate of food poisoning incidents during the recent weeks that downed over 2,000 child victims across the country, the EcoWaste Coalition cautioned bargain shoppers against buying imported food items with dubious expiry dates or torn labels that are sold in Quiapo, Manila at rock-bottom prices.
The group, which has been raising public awareness about hazardous products and wastes and pushing for policy and law enforcement actions, issued the warning as health authorities announced a food poisoning outbreak in the Caraga Region in Mindanao due to the consumption of tainted durian candies.
“Our market monitoring in Quiapo over the weekend, particularly in Villalobos Street, shows that some vendors are selling manufactured food products with tampered expiry dates or damaged labels at incredibly low prices. Bargain hunters should exercise caution when buying cheap but adulterated or mislabelled food items that could put the health of family members, especially the kids, at grave risk," stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
For example, the manufacturing and expriry dates on the wrapper of a milk chocolate coated biscuit made in France has been erased. The product is sold for just P20 per box of six packets.
A small pack of a popular brand of chewing gum costing P31.50 in supermarket is sold for P5 only. However, the discounted product bears no machine-printed expiry date unlike the one sold at a formal retail store.
Another example is a pudding snack made in Taiwan that is sold for P20 per bag of 12 jelly cups with its original “best before” sticker removed.
“We also found nougat candies from Canada, mint-flavored chewing gums from China, chocolate cookies from Indonesia and fruity chews from Thailand without the automated machine-printed expiry dates,” Dizon said.
“We fear that the authenticity and safety of such food products with expiry date stickers generated from a mere tagging device could not be fully relied on and that consumers may be mistakenly consuming adulterated foods that can cause food poisoning,” he added.
“A food shall be deemed adulterated if it has passed its expiry date” under Article 23 of the Consumer Act of the Philippines.
“We also saw other suspicious food items such as bottled oyster sauce with its label removed, canned fruit and soup with torn labels, as well as repacked chocolate and fruit powder and three-in-one coffee with zero labelling information,” he said.
Article 40 of the Consumer Act prohibits “the adulteration or misbranding of any food” and “the alteration, mutilation, destruction, obliteration, or removal of the whole or any of the labelling of” (the product) “and results in such product being adulterated or mislabelled.”
“To prevent potential poisoning cases due to the consumption of adulterated or mislabelled food items, we urge the Manila Health Department to look into this matter and take urgent law enforcement action. It’s best to take action now than be sorry later,” Dizon suggested.
Violators of the law’s Article 40 shall, upon conviction, be imprisoned from one to five years, or fined P5,000 but not more than P10,000, or get jailed and fined as decided by the court.