Press Release
September 23, 2008

Pia supports total ban on milk products from China

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today supported calls for a total ban on milk products coming from China in the wake of reports that milk contaminated with the chemical Melamine has already downed 53,000 children in China and Hong Kong.

"Trade and business should take a backseat where the safety of the public, especially our children, is concerned. A total ban is warranted by alarming reports of thousands of children getting sick after ingesting tainted milk," said Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

The lady senator also supported moves by the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) to conduct safety tests on other food products being sold locally, like candies, chocolate drinks and ice cream, that might contain contaminated milk.

"Local business establishments which import or use milk from China in their products must voluntarily turn over samples of the same to BFAD for inspection and clearance. Everyone should cooperate," suggested Cayetano.

She stressed the issue should likewise prompt the government to be more aggressive in its effort to promote breastfeeding, especially in urban poor communities where the practice of repacking and reselling imported milk in small quantities ("tingi") is reportedly rampant.

"This issue has unwittingly exposed the unsafe practice of some retailers who repack powdered milk, which is then resold in small plastic bags to unsuspecting mothers who feed the milk to their children."

"The practice of 'tingi' is understandable in a poor country like the Philippines. It might be okay to repack and resell other goods like detergent powder or even rice, sugar or cooking oil. But how can we guarantee the safety of repacked milk, especially infant formula? Who ensures safety and sanitation in the working area, as well as the implements and packing materials used to repack milk, regardless of whether it's contaminated or not?" she asked.

Cayetano, a breastfeeding advocate, is the principal author of Senate Bill 1698, also known as the "Expanded Breastfeeding Act" which has been passed on third reading at the Senate. A counterpart measure from the House of Representatives, House Bill No.4012, has also been recently approved on third reading.

The measure seeks to revive the culture of breastfeeding by mandating the establishment of "lactation stations" in public places and the workplace to allow mothers to continue breastfeeding upon returning to work after giving birth. Cayetano's bill also aims to put up "human milk banks" in public and private hospitals offering maternity services.

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