Press Release
April 7, 2010


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. today riddled with holes the result of the test conducted by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Turkish flour, saying "it raised more questions than answers."

"Definitely, I am not eating pandesal made from Turkish flour anytime soon. Not when this test by the FDA had been tainted just like the very product it sought to put under the microscope," said Pimentel.

Pimentel wondered why the Department of Health (DOH) released the FDA result only yesterday (April 6) when it apparently gave the Turkish Embassy in Manila an advance copy of the same.

The Turkish embassy already had the FDA test result as early as March 30, based on the press release it issued on the same day boasting that its flour exports to the Philippines had been cleared by the FDA.

"It seems Turkish economic concerns weigh more heavily for both the DOH and the FDA than the safety of Filipino consumers. For, otherwise, why was it that they released the result first to the Turkish embassy?" asked Pimentel.

The senator also questioned the claim of the DOH that the FDA gathered samples of Turkish flour from Central Visayas and the National Capital Region from March 9 to 22, subjecting the same to testing on March 27.

"I challenge FDA and DOH officials to go review their media statements wherein they said that they only came to know about the mycotoxins concern on Turkish flour by reading about it on the papers," said Pimentel.

"I first raised the issue on March 21, so I am really perplexed how the FDA can possibly start collecting samples on March 9, at a time when they, as per their own statements, have yet to be informed of the issue," stressed the senator.

Pimentel added that behind-the-scene maneuverings of a lobby group from Turkey, working hand-in-hand with local Turkish flour importers, would tend to undermine the FDA test.

"No such actions by those who bring in Turkish flour in our country is necessary, if Turkish flour can really stand scrutiny and tests," said Pimentel. "I have more to say on this, but later."

At the same time, Pimentel questioned the FDA's sourcing of the samples from the very groups that would tend to be disadvantaged by any ban on Turkish flour.

"Of course, it is in the interest of the sample providers for the product to pass the test. In line with this, what assurance does the FDA have that was given its personnel for testing was indeed Turkish flour?"

"Can they be certain that there were no switcheroos?" asked Pimentel.

Pimentel said the FDA confirmed the presence of the cancer-causing mycotoxins ochratoxin A and aflatoxin in the Turkish flour tested, except that their levels were purportedly "above the allowable limits."

"What are the allowable limits? Whose standards are we using? Turkey's? Or are we using the European Union standards, the testing for which, as FDA itself admitted, the Philippines only got accreditation for only last month?"

"The FDA admitted that it is only the first time that it had tested for mycotoxins. Again, I challenge them to back to their previous statements. What tests did they use and what's the margin of error."

"Let me put it straightforward as someone who does not want anything that can possibly put our people's health in danger, profits pocketed by some be damned: The doubt on Turkish flour remains. One eats pandesal made from it at his or her own risk."

"The margin of error here is not like that used by election pollsters. The margin of error here concerns life and death."

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