Press Release
October 27, 2008

Pia calls for vigilance after RP-made biscuits
test positive for melamine in Hong Kong

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today called on the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) to press on with its product safety testing to cover locally manufactured food products that might have used contaminated milk from China.

Cayetano issued the appeal in light of reports that a Philippine-made biscuit product, Croley Foods Sunflower Crackers (Blueberry Cream Sandwich), recently tested positive for melamine in Hong Kong as reported by its Centre for Food Safety (CFS) over the weekend.

"BFAD should exercise more vigilance. The melamine scare is far from over. It's still very much a threat, not only to public health but now even to the reputation of Philippine-made products being exported to our neighboring countries," warned the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

"All this time, we have been guarding against imported milk and milk-based products when the threat could also come from products manufactured here that might have used tainted milk from China, even before the melamine milk scare broke out."

She said BFAD should seriously consider tapping its accredited private laboratories and academic institutions to expedite the product testing and help widen its scope of coverage.

"We have to exert all means necessary to safeguard public health and act fast to ensure that the findings of the Hong Kong CFS doesn't cause unnecessary consumer panic that could affect the sales of other Philippine-made products being sold in other countries, because this will surely redound negatively on our economy."

Cayetano advised BFAD to cover as many products as possible, including locally made biscuits, candies, dairy and other milk-based products that might have used imported milk from China as raw material.

She noted that the Bureau of Customs has reported that 2,138,397 kilograms of Chinese milk were shipped into the country from January to August this year.

"Did the government exert enough effort to trace where this huge amount of imported milk ended up? How much of it were sold directly and how much were supplied to local manufacturers as raw material?" she asked.

She added that recent developments justify the swift approval of Senate Bill No.2645, which aims to broaden the agency's regulatory capacity by converting it into the Food, Drugs, Cosmetics and Devices Administration (FDCDA).

Under the bill principally authored by Cayetano, the FDCDA will be empowered to conduct spot checks on establishments for compliance, issue cease-and-desist orders and seize violative products

The measure also seeks to establish testing laboratories for the agency in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and reinforcing its presence by maintaining field offices in all regions and inspectors in major ports of entry.

The new agency will be allowed to retain all fees, fines, royalties and other charges it collects to augment its annual budget from the national government.

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