6 Jun 2013

EU experts call for tightening of food laws in Vanuatu

4:54 pm on 6 June 2013

European Commission experts have recommended Vanuatu tighten its laws to ensure better food safety.

This is one outcome of a six-week study conducted by an EU team, which also found that the poor quality of some foreign food is to blame for the surge in non-communicable disease in Vanuatu.

Our Port Vila correspondent, Hilaire Bule, spoke with one of the experts, Dr Henry Temple, about the study.

HENRY TEMPLE: The first assessments we did, the first findings more or less make us worry about the level of safety in this country. Dr Marshall, who is one of the members of the EU mission, found a lot of non-complying food - the date, for instance, or the origin. Many things make us worry about the future of safe food in this country. Myself, I've been reviewing the law, the existing law in Vanuatu, and we found it a bit too complicated according to the human means of administration.

HILAIRE BULE: What is the main cause of this unsafe food here in Vanuatu?

HT: A lot of faults are due to deteriorated food or salt anywhere, lack of control, lack of modern laboratories working properly. Too many offices are involved in food control - the ministry of health, the ministry of agriculture, the ministry of trade, and even communal authorities, and with little means.

HB: Does it an impact on the life of the people in Vanuatu, local people here?

HT: Yes, it does. It does. We have no epidemiological study, no general statistics, but according to the WHO and according ot the first findings we did the health of Vanuatu people is very concerned with this question.

HB: Does the food come from Chinese people or Europe or America or...?

HT: I'm not going to talk about the precise question of Chinese shopkeepers. What I can say is that a lot of bad food is put into circulation. It belongs to the local authorities to say if this food is sold or not by such and such type of shopkeepers. What we found is that very often the food doesn't have a sign of identification, like the origin of the product.

HB: What will be your recommendation at the end of your visit here in Vanuatu?

HT: Concerning my part of the mission, I would recommend to simplify very much the legislation - it is far too complicated - and make it efficient. For instance, when there is a fraud or an adulteration of food, there is no prosecution. So in the 1993 Act it is provided that when someone is cheating with food or poisoning people he should be prosecuted and maybe sometimes go to jail. This never happened.