By Suresh Perera
The clamp down on the import of substandard canned fish with an intolerable level of arsenic, particularly from manufacturers in China, has sparked a grave shortage of the commodity in the market, industry officials said.
With the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) coming down hard on cheap, low quality imports from China in May-June last year, container loads of canned fish were rejected due to their high arsenic content. The contaminated stocks were ordered to be either destroyed or re-exported to the country of origin, they recalled.
“It is true that there is a scarcity of canned fish in the market because supply cannot meet the demand. However, this does not mean we should allow our people to be poisoned through arsenic-laden imports”, says Dr. Siddhika Senaratne, SLSI’s Director-General. As the sea in China is heavily polluted and dirty due to lax environmental laws, fish harvested for canning has a high arsenic content, she explained.
Many local importers earlier procured poor quality, low cost Chinese products because of the substantial profit margin”, she noted. “They have to now access better quality brands within the permissible arsenic level”.
With the SLSI stipulating a maximum arsenic tolerance standard of 1.0 milligram per kilogram of fish, a filtering mechanism is now in place to shut out substandard imports, Dr. Senaratne outlined.
There’s no issue with canned fish consignments imported from Chile, the scientist said. “We need products that are clean, hygienic and safe for consumption”.
“There have been suggestions that we lower our standards on the arsenic content, but that cannot be done as any flexibility on evaluating hygienic and safety levels will result in a worsening situation”, Dr. Senaratne continued.
The solution here is not to lower standards, but to import high value canned fish rather than depend on cheap products containing toxic substances, she stressed. “We cannot feed poison to the people”.
The non-availability of canned fish has dealt a blow to the average family as it’s considered a low cost source of protein, industry officials said.
While Lanka Sathosa outlets and most supermarkets said the commodity was “out of stock”, a few traders who had the products were selling a 425 gram can at anything between Rs. 340 and 370 each.
“We are expecting a big stock of canned fish from Chile within the next few weeks”, Dr. Senaratne added.
With the appointment of Chairman Dr. Nushad Perera, a former senior executive in the dynamic private sector, the SLSI has seen a positive turnaround with diverse initiatives being implemented to safeguard the interests of consumers.
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam
The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.
Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.
A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.
The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.
According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.
The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.
DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.
PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners
By Norman Palihawadane
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.
Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.
The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”
Thilo Hoffman remembered
A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.
Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.
The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.
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