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Food safety: The nation’s silent killer

By Ch.KHALIUN

Recently, doctors report more and more cases of cancer being diagnosed among the nation’s younger population. According to some statistics from the World Health Organzation (WHO), Mongolia is leading in diagnoses of liver, stomach, and esophageal cancers. But what are the causes of these cancers?
The WHO believes that the cause of cancer for four out of five people is related to diet. Food safety and nutrition are vital in assessing a country’s national security. Mongolia’s food safety policy is based on a provision in the Constitution that states, “a person has the right to live”. As a result of cooperation with the WHO, the United Nation’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, and other international organizations, the Government of Mongolia and ministries regulating food and health have determined the nation’s food safety policy and created a legal environment for regulation.
The government has implemented over 20 projects and programs to improve food safety in Mongolia, one of which is the national Food Safety Condition Program. The program is being implemented in two stages; its second stage will be concluded in 2016. The government is expecting 17 results from the program. Of course, taking any measures towards a better tomorrow is the right thing to do, but there are not many changes that we can all notice in the nation’s food sector.
One of the motivations for writing about this issue is children. They are our future, but when I see them buying dried plums from China for 100 MNT and candies for 10 MNT, I get worried. For 10 MNT you can’t buy anything in Mongolia except for those candies. Even though the General Authority for Specialized Inspections (GASI) has prohibited the sale of dried plums and other inexpensive dried fruits and candies from China, people don’t know much about the policy. They are sold on the street and are available at every bus stop. Prohibiting their sale is one thing, but implementing and monitoring the enforcement of that prohibition is another thing.

Unfortunately, we can see that food safety is not highly prioritized in Mongolia. People and our leadership keep talking about Oyu Tolgoi, Tavan Tolgoi, the economic crisis, and elections. No one really cares about food safety issues. As a mother, I am really concerned about the future of my child. Every parent gives some pocket money to their child, but what they really don’t know is that their children use it to buy unhealthy products that don’t meet hygiene, storage, or quality standards.
The media rarely reports on prohibited food products and issues concerning food safety, and media definetly plays a vital role in delivering messages to the public. GASI should be cooperating more closely with the media to warn the public. In order to warn us, the Specialized Border Inspection Office of Zamiin-Uud has shared information at their office about products with fake labels and products that don’t meet hygiene standards, prohibiting their import to Mongolia, but who knows what kind of products are being focused on when that information isn’t made widely accessible?
Mongolia imports over 70 percent of its food from foreign countries. There were even rumours going around that Altan Taria, a Mongolian company, was using flour being imported from China. We’ve also heard rumors about fake eggs, rice, wine, dumplings with pesticides, toxic pork, and other dangerous food products being imported from China. Mongolia is a country where anyone can import any kinds of food products. In other countries, only licensed entities have the right to import food products under strict controls..
Head of the Specialized Border Inspection Office of Zamiin-Uud D.Munkhjargal said that following the government’s decision on increasing excise taxes on alcohol, people started importing alcohol from China. She added, “Laboratory tests showed that the methanol content of these alcoholic beverages from China were high. Vendors need to import products that meet food quality and safety standards, but considering lower prices, they import a great amount of products that don’t meet hygiene and quality standards. They need to purchase products from reliable shops in China.” She added that over 20 tons of apples with mites were seized and disposed of recently. China doesn’t allow their return, as the negotiated list established between the two countries for plants approved for returns doesn’t include apples.
Seeing moldy bread on a market shelf is not pleasant at all, but unfortunately, this can be found quite often in Mongolia, even in bigger supermarkets. The sale of expired products and food product storage is another problem. Women are more cautious and usually check the expiration date of any product, but men usually don’t. But either way, no matter if a customer is a man, woman, or child, they all should be able to buy products without fear. In Poland, when a food product is about to expire, consumers are warned about it and that product is discounted by nearly 90 percent, even if the date is a month away. Unfortunately, in Mongolia, even if the product’s expiration date is the next day, supermarkets won’t discount items or warn consumers. This is unacceptable, and relevant organizations need to resolve the issue in order to protect us. Mongolia is also one of the only countries where you can buy products from the future. This especially applies to baked goods. Of course, people prefer the freshest products, that’s why producers stamp their products with fake dates, cheating consumers.
As people are getting busier, they rarely cook at home. They choose prepared products or dine at cafeterias or restaurants. Which raises the next question: do restaurants meet hygiene standards? This is also an unresolved issue, and because of this, people suffer from food poisoning. Once in a while, we even hear about food poisoning at schools and kindergartens.
I can’t forget to mention skewered meats, khuushuur, buuz, and other foods being sold on the street. This is happening right before our eyes, but why don’t relevant organizations take any measures to regulate it? People should stop buying them. Even if it looks delicious, it is an unreliable food for sure. I heard from a guy who sells mutton skewers on the street that unsold meat is stored and sold the next day. Also, we can see more and more people selling food products from their cars. As vendors claim, these food products are from Russia, and because they’re a little cheaper than supermarkets, people do purchase items from street vendors. I am pretty sure that even though the expiration dates of these products are fine, their storage is not.
As New Year’s is coming, the Consultation and Information Center of GASI warned the public not to purchase expired products, which can harmful to their health. I am curious how many people have heard about the warning. Instead of warning the public with just one short article, GASI should be taking measures of enforcement directly with vendors and supermarkets.
These things are happening right before our eyes. We all need to be concerned about food safety and make our voices heard by relevant organizations. In order to grow Mongolia’s population we need to consume healthy food, because consuming healthy food is the basis for living happily and healthily. I hope that Mongolia’s food safety will be improved for a better future.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=17567

Posted by on Dec 23 2015. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Comments for “Food safety: The nation’s silent killer”

  1. food is hardly safe as it used to be earlier. when you have food, do you have to look at where it is coming from. or do you have to look at what it is made of. of who gave it to you. earlier it was not so important as the meat was from the herd. now the city market is making more sales than before and lots of people are buying from the city market. do they have to know who supplied the city market and when and where and how.

  2. great topic, food safety should be definitely improved in Mongolia!

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