After five months of wrangling, local distributor International Pharmaceu-tical Agency (IPA) Guyana Ltd has agreed to comply with an order to withdraw Lailac Infant Milk from the shelves.
Speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, IPA Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Singh said that his company has begun removing the product from retailers around the country.
“We will comply with the Food and Drug Depart-ment. We know they are wrong but we will comply. We started the recall this [yesterday] morning at 8 o’clock and have written to the minister communicating the fact that we will comply,” he explained.
IPA’s action came on the same day that Stabroek News reported Minister of Health Dr George Norton as saying that IPA’s refusal to comply with the order to withdraw Lailac Infant Milk from circulation should see the case being turned over to the police.
Noting that the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) works with certain rules, Norton told Stabroek News on Sunday that if the IPA is refusing to comply with the order issued by the entity, then the matter should be turned over to the police for investigation and action.
“They should be sanctioned by the police if that is the case,” he said.
However even as it began the recall IPA said it was committed to doing everything possible to return the product to the shelves.
“We will expend all efforts to put this product back on the market. Lailac Milk is a good, affordable option for many parents and even as we have been contacting retailers today to remove the products we are receiving complaints from those who don’t wish to have it removed,” Singh said. He added that over the last five months the GA-FDD has communicated to IPA several different reasons why it should recall the product.
“They have changed their goal posts so many times. In January they said we were falsely advertising the product as a “breast milk substitute” so we withdrew all local advertising, then in February they said we had misleading labelling so we wrote to the manufacturing company asking for the label to be changed. They then asked for a chemical analysis of the vegetable oils used and for a free sale certificate; we provided these things. We don’t know definitively what the problem with the product is,” Singh explain-ed. He noted that in its letter to the minister communicating its willingness to comply with the GA-FDD order, IPA has also asked to meet with the department to achieve greater clarity on product requirements.
In a series of correspondence beginning on February 11, 2016 and ending on the April 7, 2016 GA-FDD had instructed IPA to “with immediate effect remove from our local market Lailac Infant Milk.”
On April 28, in an invited comment, Minister in the Ministry of Public Health Dr Karen Cummings told Stabroek News that she had been informed that both doctors and mothers have been complaining about the milk. “I have been advised that while it is labelled milk it should not be labelled as such since it is fortified with vegetable oil and not milk fats. Further it is made in France but not sold in France.
We have adopted the standard that any product to be distributed in Guyana must be used in the country where it is produced,” she explained.
According to the correspondence signed by Director of GA-FDD Marlan Cole the importer has been unable to provide evidence that the product is freely sold and distributed in the country in which it is produced, a condition necessary to enable compliance with Food and Drug Regulation (13) of 1977 and the product is labelled infant milk though in the production process vegetable oils were used to replace milk fat in contravention of Codex Alimentarius 1986, a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations relating to foods, food production, and food safety.
IPA has however provided copies of a letter dated March 14, 2016 which purports to provide the department with a “free sale certificate.” According to this document issued under the name of the French Ministry of Agriculture “the product in conformity with regulation (EC) No 178/2002 can be placed on the French market and in the other member states of the European Union and be exported in the non-EC Member States.”
It goes on to note that the certificate can only be used for exportation outside the EU.
The company maintains that Lailac is a regional brand name for products manufactured by the French Company Nutribio.
In previous correspondence dated March 7, 2016 seen by Stabroek News, Cole instructed IPA “to with immediate effect remove from our local market Lailac Infant Milk.”
He added that “failure to respond will leave the department with no alternative but to withdraw our cooperation with your company. The department will in fifteen (15) days from the notification of this correspondence initiate a public recall and seizure of this product if the company continues to defy the department’s directive.”
However, to date, there has not been a public recall of Lailac Infant Milk by the GA-FDD. Cole has since proceeded on Annual Leave. Efforts to reach his deputy Jewel Sears were futile. Stabroek News was told at 2 pm yesterday that she had not yet reported for duty.