More complaints of counterfeiting have surfaced against Super Foods Inc, the distributor linked to fake Del Monte-brand corn, according to Head of the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Depart-ment (FDD) Marlon Cole, who says the veracity of these reports has yet to be determined by the agency.
While the FDD is in the midst of an investigation into the counterfeiting of Del Monte-brand gold and white corn, the sole authorised distributor of Del Monte Foods in Guyana has moved to pull the fake corn products off store shelves.
Officials at the Super Foods Inc refused to comment on the counterfeiting when approached by Stabroek News yesterday.
Earlier this week, the FDD had issued a warning to alert consumers of the counterfeit corn products being wholesaled in cartons of 24 – 432g cans and which were being “Manufactured by Super Foods Inc, of Lot 8 Ruimveldt Industrial Estate, Georgetown, Guyana.” Retailers were advised to pull the fake product off their shelves.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, FDD Director Cole said the agency “had no choice” but to alert the public because the product posed a health risk. He, however, stated that the department was aware of the issue for a while and was carrying out investigations until it learnt of the risks.
The counterfeited ‘Del Monte’ gold and white corn are canned in semi-rigid containers with a gold coloured labelled cap, which becomes indented and deformed with firm finger pressure. The FDD said that this was a canning/packaging defect that does not guarantee the integrity of the contents, which may lead to the possible inflow of air (oxygen) and this can give rise to oxidation resulting in chemical and or microbiological contamination. This can result in broken seals, bloating and or explosion of the cans, which can put consumers at risk for poisoning by chemicals and or microorganisms.
The genuine product has a silver coloured cap, is hard to the touch and it is difficult to indent the can.
Meanwhile, Andrew King, the Managing Director of Toucan Industries Inc, which is the sole authorised distributor of the Del Monte Foods in Guyana, said the existence of the counterfeit canned corn was brought to the company’s attention by customers who indicated that they were getting the product at a cheaper price.
“But when the product was delivered to them they expressed fear that it was manufactured in Guyana… it being packed in a carton indicated that it was being manufactured locally,” said King, who added that the retailers brought the fake products to their store.
The issue was reported by phone to the FDD and letters were sent immediately to the Tourism Ministry and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) along with samples of the products.
He said the Ministry had responded by quickly passing the information on to the FDD. However, he stated that the GRA’s Customs and Trade Administration had not responded to their letters.
With the support of the FDD, he said that Toucan Industries Inc began seizing the counterfeit products from the markets.
“We will be putting notices with photographs in the press to enable customers to identify the fake product and we also have our sales force checking as many retail distributors as we can with a view to help the Food and Drug Department to remove all fake Del Monte products in the shortest possible time,” King explained.
He also noted that Del Monte Food Corporation was notified and photographs of the counterfeit products were sent to the food company and it was confirmed that the product was not genuine. Del Monte Foods has distanced itself from the fake product. King added that Toucan Industries’ lawyers had written Super Foods Inc to stop distributing the fake product.
The FDD has also commenced an investigation to determine the exact location where the counterfeiting is being done. Containers/consignments are currently being detained for comprehensive examination before items are allowed into the country and other products suspected to be counterfeited are also being investigated.
The department advised unsuspecting wholesalers and distributors of this product to immediately remove it from their shelves or distributing system and return it to ‘Super Foods Inc’ or surrender same to the Food and Drug Department or any Environmental Health Officer in the regions.