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SLSI cracks the whip on substandard Chinese canned fish imports

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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.

 

 



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Navy divers retrieve 148 from watery graves within a year

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The Diving and Salvage Unit of the Sri Lanka Navy often renders its assistance to search for persons who go missing in water bodies and recover the bodies of drowned persons. In the past year (from 22nd May 2022 to 22nd May 2023) the Sri Lanka Navy has recovered 148 corpses from watery graves.

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Establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

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The Cabinet of Ministers approved the combined proposal presented by the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Mechanism in Sri Lanka taking into account the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.

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Draft report on the inquiry into the destruction of North-Eastern archaeological sites and interference with conservation activities handed over to the Prime Minister

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The Union of Organizations for the Protection of National Heritage handed over the draft of the investigation commission report on the inquiry into destruction of northern and eastern archaeological sites and interference with conservation activities to Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena  recently.

Ven Dr Maduruoye Dhammissara Thero, Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara, Senior Advocate Kalyananda Thiranagama and others participated in this event on behalf of the Union of Organizations for the Protection of National Heritage.

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