Contaminated juice sticks threaten children’s health

10 Jan
A young boy shows the contaminated and expired juice sticks. Authorities have warned consumers to avoid these products.Photo by Yazeed KamaldienMalak ShaherPublished:10-01-2011

SANA’A, Jan. 9 — Police have arrested a man for distributing contaminated juice that authorities said could have poisoned 200,000 children across Sana’a governorate in a matter of weeks.

Riyadh Abdulkareem, head of the Environmental Health Administration (EHA) in Sana’a, said that more than 30,000 boxes of plastic sticks containing contaminated juice were confiscated at Al-Safia district in Sana’a. Its value was USD10,000.

He said that the majority of the sticks were found at four shops owned by the product’s distributer. The rest were found at other shops in Sana’a.

Abdulkareem said that at least 200,000 children could have been poisoned if they had consumed the contaminated juice. The products had been taken off the market. He said that three underground laboratories in Sana’a manufacturing similar products were also closed down due to health risks, he said.

Abdulkareem said that some shopkeepers even dumped other juice sticks – not produced by the arrested manufacturer – for fear of contaminating consumers.

“They even threw out the ones that contained no impurities. It is a good move to realize the danger surrounding our children,” said Abdulkareem.

He said that these were not the only products that posed a threat to children’s health. He said that most of the products aimed at children in Yemen were made at underground factories without monitoring and that nobody really knows about them.

“These products are decorated with colors to attract the children,” said Abdulkareem.

Sadeq Al-Harithi, general secretary of the Al-Safia district’s Local Council, said that they have been sending teams to conduct tours at the schools in Sana’a to make children aware of the dangerous juices and other products.

Al-Harithi told the Yemen Times that the confiscated juice sticks were produced in Ibb governorate.

He said they sent the juice sticks for laboratory testing and results showed that the juice contained poison and dying materials that can cause cancer.

Al-Harithi said that some traders exploited consumers and sold them expired products for lower prices.

“They change the expiry date on the product’s cans,” Al-Harithi explained.

Mohammad Al-Asbahi, head of the Environmental Health administration in Sana’a, said that the distributer of the juice was arrested last week. Al-Harithi said that the distributer may be sentenced to imprisonment for six months to two years.

Talal Thabet, from the Environmental Health Administration, said that children did not always see the impurities in these juice products, especially when frozen.

He said that even if a product is not expired, the way it is stored or transported could affect its taste and color negatively.

“If people find that the product has not yet been expired but it tastes bad, they should stop eating it at once and report the product to the Environmental Health Administration,” said Thabet.

He said that any blurred expiry date meant that the product was not matching any health standards.

Abdula’leem Al- Hashimi, from the media department at the Yemeni Association for Consumer Protection, said that the association demanded that the expiry date was sealed on the product, instead of pasted on it.

“It is easy to change the expiry date if it is just pasted on the product. People should make sure of the expiry date before buying the product,” he said.

The Environmental Health Administration confirmed that its teams were regularly checking the safety standards of products in Yemen. It has confiscated and damaged more than 30-tons of expired products in 2010. The expired products contained dates “mixed with sugary water to make it wet”, juice for children, biscuits and cake.

The plastic sticks, called ‘ghawar’, are popular among children and cost only for YR5 (USD0.02) each

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