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NGO calls for tougher food label rules, more import inspection

FOOD LABELS need to be standardized while imported food must be inspected more thoroughly in the interest of consumer protection, a non-governmental organization (NGO) said.

In a virtual briefing Monday, Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis G. Perez said consumers must know from labels what they are buying, and called for clearer labeling practices.

“Most products being sold in supermarkets and wet markets contain labels that consumers cannot understand. We believe that it is something that should be looked into,” Mr. Perez said.

Mr. Perez added that the authorities must carry out more inspections of food imports themselves rather than rely on the exporting countries to issue safety certifications.

Norberto O. Chingcuanco, co-convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan, said Filipino exporters including his own business must pay laboratory and inspection fees in other countries to certify that the shipment is safe for consumption.

Mr. Chingcuanco said the authorities should tap laboratories to examine the safety of imported food.

“I believe our laboratory industry is ready to do testing of food products. Filipino laboratory workers are also more educated than those in other countries,” Mr. Chingcuanco said.

“It is usually $200 to $500 per container in other countries. It will be good income for the laboratory industry,” he added.

Asked if consumers will have to pay higher prices for food, he said it will represent a small part of the cost when volume is taken into account.

“It is important to have inspection in these laboratories so that products rejected in other countries do not enter the Philippines. It ensures that only safe food enters the market,” Mr. Perez said. 

Mr. Perez said stricter food safety regulations and inspection will reduce smuggling by improving the traceability of shipments.

“We believe it will curb smuggling. Food products that do not meet standards such as wrong labelling will not be allowed to enter the market,” Mr. Perez said.

Mr. Chingcuanco said smugglers are willing to risk losing their shipments because their goods are purchased at low prices.

“Smuggled products are those packaged for other countries that are either surplus supply or rejects,” Mr. Chingcuanco said.

The Department of Agriculture said it is in the process of establishing a meat inspection facility at the Manila International Container Terminal for P521.57 million.

It also announced plans to build four other meat inspection facilities at the Cebu International Port, and the ports of Batangas, Subic, and Davao. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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