A PRODUCT advertised as coconut water was taken off the market after it was found by the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division of the Ministry of Health to contain artificial ingredients.
Food and Drugs Inspector II, Farz Khan revealed this yesterday during a Joint Select Committee meeting on food fraud at the Parliament building, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
Khan said the product which was locally manufactured did not contain “any coconut whatsoever.” The Division conducted an inspection of the processing facilities and notified the manufacturer of their observation. The company now has to relabel their products to advise the consumer that the product was not coconut water.
Asked by chairman of the Committee, Independent Senator Sophia Chote SC what that product can be labelled as, Khan said, flavoured water. He noted that the company modified the name of the product from “coconut water” to “coconut”.
Chote asked if the labels on the product indicated what additives it contained, Khan said, “the manufacturer must declare all the ingredients used in the products.” Housing Minister and member of the committee Randall Mitchell asked representatives of the Division if there was a standard for a product to be called coconut water.
Chief Chemist, Director, Chemistry, Food and Drugs, Adrian Mc Carthy explained that under the law, the standards for food products was known as regulations but they did not have regulations for all products. “It is something that we do over a period of time through a consultation process through the National Food Advisory Committee.
With coconut water we have no specific standards or regulations for it at present,” he said.
Khan told the committee that in 2008, the Division took action when they discovered that imported baby milk contained the chemical Melamine, which is used in the manufacture of plastic. When asked by Chote, how did they make that discovery, he said, they found out about it after an alert from the United States.
Also raised at the meeting was the topic of products with labels in foreign languages.
Khan explained that presently, the regulation gives the allowance for a product to be labelled in a foreign language however, it is mandatory that the label must have English writing.
“A lot of times we get complaints from consumers and when we go and we do our normal surveillance we would realise the product is labelled in English, sometimes it is a bit inconspicuous to the consumer to see exactly where the English is stated,” he said.
He explained that before the products are placed on the supermarket shelves, the regulators go to the different ports of entry and do examinations.
“In instances whereby we are unable to do it at the ports of entry it is released to premises or the warehouse where it is held until an inspection is done by an inspector to determine compliance with the particular provisions in the law,” Khan said.