One day after the local distributor International Pharmaceutical Agency (IPA) Guyana Ltd told Stabroek News that it had begun a voluntary recall of Lailac Infant Milk, the product is still on the shelves of most supermarkets.
On Monday, IPA Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Singh, had told this newspaper that his company had begun removing the product from retailers around the country after five months of wrangling with the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD).
“We will comply with the Food and Drug Department. We know they are wrong but we will comply. We started the recall this [Monday] morning at 8 O’clock and have written the Minister communicating the fact that we will comply,” he had explained.
Singh made the statement the same day that Stabroek News reported Minister of Health Dr George Norton as saying that IPA’s refusal to comply with the GA-FDD’s order to withdraw Lailac Infant Milk from circulation should see the case being turned over to the police.
Noting that GA-FDD works with certain rules, Norton told Stabroek News on Sunday that if the IPA is refusing to comply with the orders 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.
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.”
In one correspondence dated March 7, 2016 seen by Stabroek News, GA-FDD director Marlan Cole told IPA that failure to comply with the directive to recall, “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.”
To date however there has been no public recall by GA-FDD. Cole has since proceeded on Annual Leave however his deputy Jewel Sears, yesterday told Stabroek News that the department has not issued a public recall as of “this moment.”
“If or when we issue a public recall it will be communicated through means of public announcements,” she explained. Sears also added that the department has received no communication from IPA that it has engaged in a “voluntary recall of the product.”
A visit to several supermarkets in the city found the product still on the shelves. At Nigel’s Supermarket Stabroek News was informed that no directive to remove the product had been received from either the distributor or GA-FDD, the product was still being sold at the Robb and Light Street supermarket. At Survival Supermarket on Vlissengen Road the product had been removed from the shelves on Monday. According to the customer service representative that supermarket had received a call from the distributor, however the product was still on the shelves at the Sheriff Street location.
Budget Supermarket also noted that it had not received any communication. Bounty Supermarket however noted that they don’t stock the product.
GA-FDD contends that 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.
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.
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.