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Kh.Giimaa: Importers are responsible for the safety of their products

By M.ZOLJARGAL

The following is a translated interview by Mongoliin Medee newspaper with Kh.Giimaa, Executive Director of the Mongolian Food Industry Association, about food safety issues and the new Law on Food Safety of Mongolia which was put in effect on March 1, 2013. 

-The new Food Safety Law and Food Law of Mongolia was put in effect on March 1 this year. These laws are of direct concern to the safety of the entire nation. How well do you think the laws were formulated as someone who participated in the revision of the law?

-We really needed a law on food safety. The Food Safety Law of Mongolia will focus on ensuring th safety of food networks, which includes all activities related to raw material for food products. These include plantation, harvesting and preparing raw materials for plant-based products and fruits, and the raising, breeding, trading and slaughter of livestock, as well as preparation and transportation of milk. Furthermore it concerns the supply of food products, their production, transportation, storage and reserve, marketing, and exportation.

In food networks, suppliers have the responsibility to ensure safety for products and raw materials that they planted, prepared, transported, manufactured, sold, processed and imported

Clauses in the new Food Safety Law clearly oblige businesses in the food industry to follow certain standards to ensure the safety of their products and raw materials; provide tags and specifications for their products, be aware of products and raw materials that will be considered harmful to human health, to recall products supplied to the market if certain risks have occurred, and to record their operations regularly.

-Citizens believe that the biggest advantage of the new law is the straight-forward supervision of imported goods and restrictions if necessary. But there must be several other advantages besides this. Can you give our readers more details about it?

-There is no clause in the Food Safety Law of Mongolia to restrict imported goods or raw materials. On the contrary, the new law simplifies previous complicated stages that importers had to pass by submitting various documents for approvals. From now on, importers are responsible for the safety of their products.

-The new law only permits registered entities in Mongolia to export or import food products. Is this right?

-The main principle of the Food Safety Law of Mongolia is to focus on risk-based inspections, and therefore, it assesses and supervises the quality of imported products on a risk-based criteria.

We will no longer take samples from each import product to inspect them. Livestock or plant-based food products and raw material importers will be obligated to submit specification to inspection organizations in Mongolia 30 days before delivery. The specifications should include the type of product, country and region of origin, information about the manufacturer, and so on.

-Instructions for products written in Mongolian are obligatory in accordance with the new law as well. Can you tell us more about this?

-Inspection organizations will thoroughly examine the submitted information of importers. They will complete risk-based food assessment and pre-delivery inspection if necessary. According to the law, the tags of raw materials or products can be written in either Mongolian, English or Russian.

But the law obliges specifications about the intended use, contents, ingredients and instructions to be written in Mongolian if the product is designed for infants, small children or medical purposes.

-The public seems to think that food safety laws only apply to food manufacturers. Can you give us further details?

-Yes, the public thinks that the law applies to only domestic manufacturers. The reason is that workshops or promotions about the law’s clauses focused on the pre-manufacturing stages are insufficient. Herders supplying livestock to butcheries and farmers have limited knowledge of what clauses concern their activities.

There are clauses that oblige them to certain standards in regards to livestock health and supplements, and the storage of fertilizers and their usage.

-Citizens prefer to use food manufactured or grown domestically, as it is safer and healthier. But I’ve heard that staff at several domestic food manufacturers have reported poor hygiene at their work places. Which organization inspects food manufacturers?

-All consumers want to use healthy and safe products, especially food products. According to the new law, food manufacturers will be responsible for ensuring their raw material or product safety by practicing acceptable standards of operational hygiene during manufacturing and other processes.

The law increases the responsibility of food manufacturers for safety, and inspections will be risk-based as I have mentioned earlier. We will evaluate the risk of operations of food manufacturers as high, moderate and minimum after inspecting their supervision documents and risk assessment criteria.

If they are evaluated as high risk, specialized inspection agencies will inspect them more frequently.

-The new law must have included specific clauses on storage standards. When there is food supply, storage systems capable of maintaining quality is a high priority. How will the law resolve storage issues?

-Mongolia stores vegetables and meat for cold seasons due to its harsh climate. However, our food industry officials do not pay attention to maintaining meat quality. It seems that the agriculture sector officials and crop farmers are both short of information on how to properly store vegetables, the standards they have to meet, and what to focus on while storing them.

They only pay attention to preventing decomposition and freezing meat, but maintaining humidity is of equal importance. Consumers comment that the quality of reserve meat is low because it has lost its moisture during the freezing process.

The new law puts businesses in charge of ensuring safety and the quality of food products. This should prompt the private sector to introduce better technology that will ensure the quality of food products even after storage.

-Is it impossible to limit the importation of certain products? For instance, chicken and eggs since they are high risk? Residents have asked whether it would be better to limit them as there are several domestic suppliers of chicken and eggs. What are your thoughts on this?

-The Food Law of Mongolia (not to be confused with Food Safety Law) manages quality and a wide range distribution of food. I think that it is crucial for Mongolia to manage food products with detailed specifications to keep supply and demand consistent.

Manufacturers will be able to know when and what to invest in if the demand of a certain imported product is available. Statistics on produced milk and meat are mostly impractical.

-Usage of products, equipments and packaging made of plastic is increasing. But plastic products are considered unhealthy, especially in the food sector?

-Packaging is very important for food safety. There is almost no specific law that concerns food packaging in our country. The laws only obligate the use of packaging designated for specific products in the food industry.

For instance, we use white and yellow plastic bags that cost 100 MNT everyday when shopping for food, and milk is usually stored in plastic containers. However, we have no idea where these plastic bags and containers were made, who imports them, and whether they were made for food storage or not. But the new Food Safety Law of Mongolia has included a clause to package raw materials and food products with packaging materials that present no threat to human health.

-How will the new law supervise the quality and ingredients of imported, semi-processed food products?     

-The new law obligates importers to include instructions for processing food products after purchase in Mongolian, as it is more important than inspecting ingredients. Detailed packaging and label information standards were included in the law.

Legal responsibilities for food suppliers whose products contain false information are clearly stated in the law. Therefore both importers and domestic food manufacturers must improve their food hygiene, safety and internal supervision.

When I say internal supervision, I don’t mean there must be a big laboratory or a specific specialized division for every food manufacturer. They will just have to record their products’ information correctly and develop a reliable database or archive.

-Do you agree that food products delivered to provinces experience severe deterioration in quality during transportation?

-There are several problems related to long-distance delivery. Products that are not produced in provinces are transported from Ulaanbaatar. But there is no transport vehicle with the required refrigeration system in Mongolia, which makes quality maintenance a difficult issue.

Therefore, smaller bakeries, milk and dairy product factories are being built in provinces.

The new law states that food suppliers and delivery businesses will be responsible for the safety of their products.

 

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=7004

Posted by on Dec 17 2013. Filed under Domestic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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