March 8, 2021

Trinidad: We don’t sell old chicken

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Fron-chickenBy JULIEN NEAVES From Trinidad & Tobago Newsday

PRESIDENT of the Supermarkets Association of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Yunus Ibrahim has defended local supermarkets against claims that imported chicken unfit for human consumption is being sold, saying these statements were meant to “push” the local market.

“If food is coming into this country and it’s not fit for human consumption it is squarely upon those who are in charge of securing our borders,” he said.

He was responding to statements made on at the Joint Select Committee (JSC) hearing on Food Fraud at the J Hamilton Maurice Conference Room at the Parliament in Port-of-Spain. Poultry Association president Robin Phillips had reported that some of the chicken being imported was actually only fit as pet meat.

Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat had also spoken then about “food laundering” where chicken frozen for as long as five years in the United States was being exported to this country and sold as “fresh poultry”.

Ibrahim yesterday pointed out a framework set out by the Health Ministry determines what is good and passable for this country.

“Nobody should be allowed to sell anything that is not fit for human consumption and we must have our own laws and regulations to state what is fit for consumption,” he said.

He said every bit of meat that comes into this country is frozen but there are production dates, pack dates and best by dates on labels.

“And no supermarket is in the habit of accepting any goods from any supplier that is outside of those dates,” he stressed.

He said if this is “so they should be dealt with” by relevant authorities such as the Health Ministry and the Food Inspectorate.

“For people to actually think that supermarkets are poisoning the consumers is really an unfair statement, especially when it is we are not in the habit of importing our product, we get it from suppliers.

And most of the market is taken up by local supply any how,” he said.

He explained frozen foreign chicken products are from large companies like USbased Tyson and they are reputable brands that trade on the stock exchange markets and do not sell expired food.

Ibrahim said at the JSC what was supposed to happen is a proper venting of the current situation.

He also pointed out that some of the imported chicken is brought in by restaurants and said the “real crux” of the matter is of Customs and Excise screening what is coming in.

He said his members are concerned, again decrying blanket statements against imported chicken “for the sole purpose of pushing the local markets”.

“There are valid brands of frozen chicken,” he added. “It is not in the best interest of anyone to be selling that type of chicken,” he said.

Rambharat, speaking in a telephone interview yesterday, reported that agricultural products coming into this country, including frozen chicken, are not being physically examined or tested by authorities.

He explained that for the importation of meat products, the Customs and Excise Division only looks at documentation and the Chemistry Food and Drug Division (CFDD) only looks for proof that it was produced at a certified plant.

“What we are finding out is that nobody looks at the physical product.

No one is sampling or testing,” he revealed.

He felt the process should be to combine the certification process at the source, have examinations at borders and that ongoing examinations should take place in market to provide assurance to the consumer.

He also pointed out that the CFDD has been without an operational lab since May 2014 and has not been in a position to determine the quality of products. He reported that Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh was looking at this issue.

Rambharat said besides supermarkets, the meat could be “laundered” as prepared food and when certain ingredients are added it is difficult to compare the tastes.

Former Trade Minister Vasant Bharath said yesterday the matter had been ongoing for some time.

He recalled that during his tenure he sought to bring the CFDD under the Trade Ministry but this was resisted and they “have almost been a law unto themselves”.

He said the division has not been doing its job and the Customs and Excise Division is not being vigilant enough and systems need to be made more efficient.

“We need to clean up our act (because) consumers and local manufacturers will suffer,” he said.

For more on this story to: http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,229415.html

IMAGE: kimekwu.blogspot.com

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