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13 containers of imported coconut oil under laboratory investigation for toxic substances



by Suresh Perera

Amidst allegations that consignments of contaminated coconut oil imported to the country have been cleared for release to the market by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI), the head of the premier body dismissed the claims as “unfounded”, saying that samples of the 13 containers are still under testing for any harmful substances.

“The laboratory investigation is continuing and it will take another two days for the process to be completed”, said Dr. Nushad Perera, SLSI’s Chairman.

Referring to reports that SLSI officials had authorized the sale of 183,055 kilograms of coconut oil brought down to the country by four importers, he said these claims were far from the truth as the stocks have been sealed by the Customs until the sample testing is done.

Neither the SLSI nor the Customs or the Health Ministry Food Control Unit has given the green light for the consignments to be sold to consumers, Perera stressed.

The 13 containers were imported by four different suppliers, Ali Brothers (Pvt) Limited, Sena Mills Refineries, Edirisinghe Edible Oils and Katana Refineries, the SLSI said in a statement.

“They are longstanding importers of coconut oil”, it said.

The containers were detained by the Customs on suspicion that the stocks contained aflatoxins, a family of toxins produced by certain fungi found on agricultural crops. The main fungi that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which are abundant in warm and humid regions of the world.

In case any toxic substances are found, the Health Ministry will instruct the Customs to re-export the consignments, the SLSI chief said. “Otherwise, they will be allowed to be sold in the market”.

Both the Customs and the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) have confirmed that the 13 containers are still being held in warehouses until the outcome of the laboratory tests.

In the midst of allegations of contaminated coconut oil, industry sources claimed that the adulteration of the commodity happens in a big way in the marketplace.

Despite the big talk about raids by the CAA, it is common knowledge that coconut oil is adulterated with cheaper palm oil and sold to consumers at anything between Rs. 340-370 per 750ml bottle, the sources said.

Adulteration of the commodity is so common that it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than pure coconut oil in the marketplace, they said.

All the noise about random checks by the CAA is absolute bunkum as those in the industry know that even rancid oil from wayside eating houses are collected, bleached and resold, they asserted.

“It is no secret that adulterated and rancid coconut oil can lead to serious health hazards as it contains carcinogenic free radicals, but does anybody in authority care?”, the sources queried.

The demand for coconut oil generally spikes during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year season as it is used for the preparation of traditional sweetmeats.



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for



By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time



State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.



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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30



The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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